India banks on yoga export: Blending soft power and commerce

yoga-class112India is banking on the global popularity of yoga to cash in on the success of its most famous cultural export. In the recently unveiled new Foreign Trade Policy, yoga has been included under the services export section, a move that shows the government’s enterprise in leveraging  India’s soft power.

The trade policy focus on the ancient Indian discipline of wellness has come in the run-up to a host of events India will be hosting for celebrations relating to the International Day of Yoga on June 21, a pioneering step that was possible only with India’s proactive diplomacy.

The new trade policy aspires to make India a star player in world trade by 2020 – currently Asia’s third largest economy accounts just about 2% of global trade.

Under the yoga rubric, the Indian government will also be marketing and promoting related products such as ayurveda, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and handicrafts as a part of the natural health and wellness package. This is expected to provide boost to the domestic MSME sector as well.

In an a world which is increasingly becoming more fitness aware, and organic traditional and natural ways of staying healthy are the new fad (especially in the West, which also has significant purchasing power), the thrust on yoga in international trade is a smart move.

Born in India centuries, yoga is today popular globally, as shown by the UN’s endorsement for 21st June as World Yoga Day last December. India and Indian yoga gurus have been playing a stellar role in branding it across the globe and India needs to build on this brand image. Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has acknowledged this fact, saying that branding campaigns were being planned for promoting exports from sectors such as services, and commodities in which India has traditional strengths, such as handicrafts and yoga.

India is already a major hub of low cost medicine, and medical tourism is a fast growing sector. By promoting yoga and traditional medicines systems within a composite marketing exercise, India can be projected as not only the ‘pharmacy of the world’, but also as a source of natural healthcare and fitness systems. These branding campaigns, apart from building on India’s soft power, shall uniquely position Indian health and wellness products to bring in much required foreign exchange.

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