An iconic drink of the subcontinent is missing from Indian stores, leaving tens of thousands of its fans craving for it. In the need of the hour, Pakistan offers help.
NEW DELHI — Rooh Afza, a rose-flavoured sweet sherbet, is one of the most popular refreshing drinks in the sub continent since 1907. With temperatures soaring, the beverage has suddenly gone missing from the Indian market, frustrating millions of regular buyers.
The sales of the drink usually shoot up during the month of Ramadan, as tens of thousands of Indian Muslims break their fast with the herbal-infused beverage.
With the market share in India worth $57 million, the drink is equally popular among Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths as well.
Gautam Chauhan, a resident of New Delhi, has been eagerly waiting for it to be back in stores. “Rooh Afza has been my favourite sherbet since my childhood days,” he says. “I used to have a chilled glass of it after finishing a game of cricket."
Amidst the shortage of the drink, Chauhan is willing to spend extra money to buy a few bottles, even seeking online options to get it from abroad.
With more and more Indians expressing their disappointment over the absence of the drink, Pakistan has offered help.
Rooh Afza is manufactured in Pakistan as well. Usama Qureshi, who worked at Hamdard Pakistan as CEO until last week, recently tweeted that his company is happy to fill a deficit in India.
“We can supply RoohAfza and RoohAfzaGO to India during this Ramadan. We can easily send trucks through Wagah border if permitted by Indian Government.”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal was quick to back Qureshi saying, "if the supply of Rooh Afza from Pakistan quenches their thirst, then we will certainly want to do so.”
The offer shook the internet, with people asking whether the drink trade will bring a thaw in otherwise frozen relations between India and Pakistan. The two nuclear archrivals have fought four wars and recently came close to fighting the fifth one after a suicide bombing in India-administered Kashmir claimed the lives of 44 paramilitary policemen in late February.
The old rivalry
As the Indian government imposed trade restrictions in light of the fatal bombing, Pakistani Rooh Afza may face many hurdles before landing in Indian retail stores.
Hamdard Laboratories in India, which manufactures the drink, says a “shortage of key ingredients” has disrupted the supply chain.
Mansoor Ali, chief of marketing and sales at India’s Hamdard, tells TRT World that the company is trying its best to make the stock available at the earliest.
"It was purely the non-availability of herbals which subsequently led to the short supply of the product,” he says.
Hamdard, the company that produces a variety of Herbal products, including Rooh Afza, was founded by Hakim Abdul Majeed in 1906. His aim was to launch products that prevented people from facing dehydration and heat strokes.
In India, Hamdard boasts about 450,000 retailers catering to millions of customers owing to the 600-odd products with at least 300 teams spread across different states. It has opened offices in 25 countries.
In neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, too, the company and its products are successful.
It remains to be seen however if the generations-old refreshing sherbet could break the ice between India and Pakistan.