BS READS: Ramdev's low-key brother emerges from the shadows with Ruchi Soya

When it comes to running the establishment, Ramdev’s role is to evolve broad strategies for the group along with Balkrishna, the designated managing director of the group
Since its inception, Patanjali Ayurved’s fame has largely been driven by yoga guru Baba Ramdev. His claim to fame was morning yoga shows teaching kapalbhati pranayama on religious TV channels. With Acharya Balkrishna as managing director, Ramdev grew Patanjali beyond yoga to an FMCG empire of almost Rs 10,000 crore by revenue.


But apart from the duo, Ramdev’s younger brother Ram Bharat has been running the machine behind the scenes.


Bharat, who is in his early forties, handles the day-to-day operations of the group like a de facto CEO. Though he has never held any fancy designation, he is considered third in the power index of the Patanjali group.


The media-shy Bharat had always managed to stay below the radar. But that changed on August 19, when in a board meeting, Ruchi Soya announced that Bharat would take over as its new managing director as Balkrishna stepped down.


Ruchi Soya was acquired by the Patanjali group in December 2019, and Balkrishna was inducted as executive director and CMD, while Bharat became a whole-time director and Ramdev, a non-executive director.


But because of this board reshuffle at Ruchi Soya, Ramdev’s right-hand man will now be taking the centre stage with a more powerful role and will break out of his earlier behind-the-scenes character.


Covert induction into the empire


Bharat is the third among four children born to Ram Niwas Yadav and Gulabo Devi in Mahendragarh, Haryana. While eldest brother Devdutt and his family still live in the ancestral village, the rest shifted to Haridwar, where Ramdev was setting up his empire.


Bharat was part of this journey from the beginning and is considered among the four pillars of the power centre at Patanjali, equivalent in stature to Ramdev, Balkrishna and Swami Muktananda—the three founders of the group.


When it comes to running the establishment, Ramdev’s role is to evolve broad strategies for the group along with Balkrishna, the designated managing director of the group. Balkrishna also oversees product development. Swami Muktananda handles Patanjali Yog Peeth and also serves as the managing director of Vedic Broadcasting, but is not actively involved on the business side.


Hence, the responsibility of day-to-day operations falls on Bharat’s shoulders, who overlooks everything: from purchases to manufacturing to supply chain to recruitment and even the daily cash flows of the group.


Apart from Bharat, some of the other family members are also involved with the group.


Their father oversees farms owned by Patanjali occasionally but doesn’t have any role in the business officially. Yash Dev Shastri, the husband of Ramdev’s youngest sibling Ritambhara, is a director in two of the Patanjali group companies. He also supplies mustard seeds to Patanjali from his Alwar-based farms, under a company named after his wife—Ritambhara Foods


Ritambhara and Bharat’s wife, Snehlata, are homemakers but hold a few directorship positions in the group companies.


Ramdev is a public figure and addresses the media very frequently, attending everything from product launches to political functions. In contrast, Bharat has always stayed away from Patanjali’s mega launches and media briefings.


His only brush with publicity has been for the wrong reasons. In May 2015, the police arrested him on charges of instigating a clash between truck union members and the security personnel at Patanjali Food and Herbal Park in Haridwar. One person had died in the clash. The case is still pending in the Uttarakhand High Court.


“It is because of such instances that people started calling him the ‘bouncer of Patanjali’ and workers at the manufacturing plants used to be terrified of him,” a former employee told Business Standard.


A current employee, who closely works with Bharat, considers this a necessary evil, “He isn’t a bouncer, but a hard taskmaster. He has to manage manufacturing plants of such a large scale, so he has to be strict,” he said.


Email queries sent to Patanjali group and Ruchi Soya remained unanswered till the time of publishing this report. The story will be updated as and when any response is received from them.


The force behind the throne


Like Ramdev and Balkrishna, Bharat also has no formal training in business, but those who have closely worked with him say he has learnt the ropes quickly. While Ramdev and Balkrishna formulate the game plan, he is the one who actually executes it on the ground with his deep understanding of the daily operations.


Bharat started as a manager at the Patanjali group and was gradually elevated to the position of chief general manager. He was inducted on to the board of directors of Patanjali Ayurved only in October 2017, but has been handling the company’s operations since inception.


Company insiders say Bharat, who usually operates from his residence or the Patanjali Food & Herbal Park office, is the most accessible person in the top management and the go-to guy for all issues within the group across domains.


“Bharat Bhai [Ram Bharat] starts his day early and is usually the last to leave the office; (he is) available almost 24x7x365 for work-related issues, always welcoming you with a broad smile on his face, irrespective of what time of the day you meet him,” said the employee.


Bharat attends more meetings in a day than Ramdev and Balkrishna put together, confirms a former senior official at Patanjali group.


Ram Bharat’s veins of power run deep


Though Balkrishna is the largest shareholder in Patanjali Ayurveda, Bharat owns a minor stake indirectly and is effectively the second-largest stakeholder.


In Patanjali Ayurved, 98.54 per cent stake is owned by Balkrishna. The rest is divided among six promoter companies and 1,000 odd shares were held by Swami Muktananda as on March 31, 2019, according to the company’s RoC filings.


Among those six promoter companies, Bharat owns a significant stake in three. He is a director in 16 companies and a former director in almost as many companies of Patanjali group. His wife also holds directorship positions in 11 group companies.


His first directorial position was with Maa Kamakhya Herbals, whose board he joined in July 2006 and served until January 2010.


One of the biggest units under him is biscuits. Bharat is a director in Patanjali Natural Biscuits Pvt Ltd and also owns 38 per cent stake in Patanjali Biscuits Pvt. Ltd, another group company in this segment. Shastri, Bharat’s brother-in-law, is also a director in the company.


Bharat is also a director and owns over 17 per cent in Patanjali Peya Pvt Ltd, the bottled-water unit that sells Divya Jal and started in 2019.


Bharat owns 80 per cent stake in the logistics unit, Patanjali Parivahan Pvt Ltd. He was also a director in the company since its incorporation in 2009 but resigned in March 2020. His wife is currently one of two directors in the company.


In Divya Packmaf Pvt Ltd, the packaging material manufacturing unit of the group, Bharat and his wife hold 100 per cent stake and serve as the only two directors in the firm.


Patanjali Group entered the securities services business three years ago with Parakram Security India Pvt Ltd. It is 99.9 per cent owned by Patanjali Parivahan, where Bharat is the majority shareholder. Bharat and Shastri serve as the directors of the company.


Bharat is also a director in Universal TV Networks along with Shastri and Kishore S Mohatta, the erstwhile owner of Sanskar TV, who launched Ramdev and later sold the TV channel to him.


The company has zero revenues from operations. Bharat was the majority shareholder in the company from its incorporation in 2010 to 2018, but later transferred shares in favour of Muktananda. Bharat was holding 64 per cent stake as on March 31, 2018.


Bharat loaned Rs 2.8 crore to the company between 2016 and 2019. The company used the amount to advance a loan of Rs 2.5 crore to Aastha Broadcasting Network Ltd, a Patanjali group company.


Bharat and his wife also own 100 per cent stake in a Delhi-based company Krishna Dal Mill Pvt Ltd. The company has zero revenues from its operations and owns 60 per cent stake in another company—Sunrise Infotec Pvt Ltd, a real estate firm in Chandigarh.


Krishna Dal Mill is not a Patanjali group firm but has been a beneficiary of a Rs 25-crore loan from Patanjali Ayurved between 2017-18. Apart from Patanjali, the company has also received loans from other companies—Baba Healthcare (Rs 4 crore), CB Jewellers (Rs 8 crore), KPG Jewellers (Rs 3.2 crore), according to the RoC filings.


Krishna Dal Mill further extended an unsecured short-term loan worth Rs 16 crore towards its subsidiary, Sunrise Infratec.


The road ahead


Ruchi Soya is Bharat’s first major leadership assignment, taking over one of India’s largest makers of edible oil, worth around Rs 20,000 crore by market capitalisation, as of August 21—setting a new chapter of his rise within the Patanjali empire.


However, Bharat’s new responsibility comes loaded with challenges. Up until now, Bharat was a director in FMCG major-Patanjali Ayurved, with stakes and directorship in several other group companies.


The task ahead is to turn around Ruchi Soya. While his experience with Patanjali may prove handy and he has the wherewithal to explore synergies between the two companies, it remains an uphill task.


“A company making a comeback from bankruptcy needs the full focus of its top boss. Being Ramdev’s kin and one of his most trusted lieutenants, Bharat was the obvious choice to be handed over the reins at Ruchi Soya,” said an employee of Patanjali.


“Although Bharat has a professional CEO to do that job for him, it will be interesting to see how he manages to run a listed company while continuing to shy away from the media and maintain a low-profile like earlier,” said an industry insider.

Company Revenue from operations* (Rs crore) Net profit / loss (Rs crore) Ram Bharat's shareholding (%)
Patanjali Natural Biscuits 346.6 7.25 -
Patanjali Biscuits 208.2 -2.4 38.00%
Patanjali Peya 22 -2 17.40%
Patanjali Parivahan 400 -12 80.00%
Parakram Security India 90 -17 Indirect
Divya Packmaf 11 -3 99.90%

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