Popular drinks brand Rasna’s founder Areez Khambatta dies at 85

In 1976, Khambatta established the popular orange-flavoured beverage brand, which went on to become a household name by the early 1980s. Subsequently, the birth of the Rasna Girl became an instant hit with its iconic “I love you, Rasna” tagline.

Rasna’s popularity was due to its value-for-money offering targeting the price-sensitive Indian consumer. Khambatta, a professional flavourist, sold the soft drink concentrates for 5 per pack, which could serve up to 32 glasses of drinks, and was a favourite among India’s middle-class families.

The Ahmedabad-based firm now has a diversified portfolio of spreads, beverage concentrates, soft-drinks, and energy drinks, seeling across over 60 countries.

It has nine manufacturing plants, and a distribution network with 26 depots in India, besides 200 super-stockists and 5,000 stockists. Its has a network of 1.6 million outlets.

For years, Rasna competed with the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

However, a shift in consumption habits and the dominance of Pepsi, Sprite, Thums Up and Coca Cola, have gradually dimmed the prospects of soft-drink concentrate as a category. However, it is still loved by children.It continues to be a family-owned business.

Khambatta is survived by wife Persis, children Piruz, Delna and Ruzan, besides grandchildren Arzeen, Arzad, Avan, Areez, Firoza and Arnavaz.

“It would not be out of place to say that Khambatta started India’s original startup by creating the world famous Rasna brand, which even to this day quenches the thirst of millions at an affordable price of 140 offering fruits, vitamins and nutrient supplements.

Khambatta’s efforts created thousands of direct and indirect jobs in India, and the fruit-based pulps helped millions of farmers get better value for the crops across the country, the company added.

In the course of life, Khambatta held various positions in community organizations.

Khambatta was chairman of Areez Khambatta Benevolent Trust, which overseas the corporate social responsibility initiatives of the group, and Rasna Foundation. He was also the former chairman of World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthostis, the past president of Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayat, and vice president of the Federation of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India. He was awarded the President of India’s home guard and civil defence medal and the Paschimi Star, Samarseva and Sangram Medals.

Advertiser Sandeep Goyal worked on brand Rasna in the 1990s while working at Mudra Interact Vision. Goyal interacted extensively with Khambatta, and his son, Piruz. Goyal recalls Rasna as the one that appealed to the middle class household.

“It was the thirst quencher for every middle-class family those days. Refreshing, and sweet and social for friends and family. A drink quick and affordable and kids loved it, while the housewife found it a ready source for guest hospitality,” he said. Back then Rasna was a combination of both taste and economy, far better than nimbu paani, and cheaper than squash, but acceptable to all,” he added.

To appreciate the contribution of Khambatta, it is important to understand the 1970s, when the Indian economy was nascent and consumers were forced to opt for costly soft drink products from global beverage makers.

Khambatta had the foresight and vision to launch a soft drink pack at 5, or just about 15 paisa per glass. The soft drink packs not only contained vitamins and minerals, but were 10 times cheaper than the alternative beverages available in the market.

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