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Areez Khambatta, creator of iconic brand Rasna, no more

The Rasna concentrates, then just sweetened flavoured powders, made soft drinks accessible for millions of Indians by making them affordable and easy to make at home

Areez Khambatta, creator of iconic brand Rasna, no more
A former chairman of the World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis, Khambatta worked towards the growth of the minority Parsi community in the country.

Decades before ‘made in India’ became the business anthem of India Inc, a Parsi entrepreneur-cum-philanthropist from Ahmedabad showed the country how to put it into practice.

Areez Pirojshaw Khambatta, founder chairman of the Rasna group of industries, who passed away on November 19 at the age of 85, has left behind a legacy few would be able to replicate. Taking on global giants like Coca Cola way back in the ’70s, Khambatta, through his far-sightedness and chutzpah, created the original startup — the Rasna brand of fruit-based soft drink concentrates — immortalised by the ‘I love you Rasna’ jingle that still evokes nostalgia among those who grew up in the seventies and eighties.

The Rasna concentrates, then just sweetened flavoured powders, made soft drinks accessible for millions of Indians by making them affordable and easy to make at home. Originally known as Jaffe when launched in 1976, after Jaffna mangoes, the brand was renamed by Khambatta as Rasna, meaning juice, in 1980.

Over the years, Rasna has also ventured into fruit pulp concentrates, leading to the creation of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly, improving farmers’ prospects for a better remuneration for their crops.

Skillfully positioned and marketed by Khambatta’s business acumen, Rasna remains an iconic homegrown brand with a high top-of-mind recall thanks to constant reinvention over the years.

Today, Rasna products are available across 60 countries, with the brand overtaking MNCs like Coca Cola, Pepsi and Unilever in the soft drink market sweepstakes. The company has nine plants across India, producing an estimated 500 crore glasses of soft drink concentrate mixes daily.
Known as an industrialist with scruples, Khambatta was the recipient of a Samman Patra from the Union finance ministry for his contribution to the national exchequer as the highest tax payer of Gujarat.

Khambatta was also known for his philanthropic work. A former chairman of the World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis, Khambatta worked towards the growth of the minority Parsi community in the country. Felicitated as the first ‘outstanding Parsi of Ahmedabad’ by the Ahmedabad Parsi Panchayat, he contributed significantly to societal development through his yeoman social service.

He was also known for his passion for nurturing talent. He felt that delivering quality education to his fellow citizens was part of his religious duty, as nothing was nobler than education. In 2008, the University of North Texas and the Areez Khambatta Benevolent Trust, a charitable arm of the Khambatta family, established a collaboration to sponsor international education for deserving candidates.

A hands-on manager with a flair for marketing, Khambatta has left a void in the industrial world. But with his son and successor Piruz Khambatta at the helm of Rasna since 1997, it is hoped that he will take the Rasna legacy forward.

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First published on: 22-11-2022 at 09:08 IST