Over time, the iconic Parsi Dairy may live on with a new set of owners who will hopefully understand the value and fan following developed over a 100 long years
A front-page lead story in the Times of India that the much-loved Parsi Dairy was going to be shut caused an eruption of emotional responses among fans and foodies in Mumbai and outside.
After all, in the past decade or so, Mumbai has been steadily losing a series of iconic eaters starting from the quaint Wayside Inn to Basantani and Samovar Café (Jehangir Art Gallery) and now Parsi Dairy too? It was almost as though busy Mumbai’s heartbeat stopped for a second. Vehement denials from Parsi Dairy’s owners led to a collective sigh of relief.
As it turns out, Times of India may have exaggerated a plan to sell a massive 300 acres of land owned by the Parsi Dairy company into the demise of a brand.
The Times of India reported, “This vintage Mumbai institution, started by Parsi entrepreneur Nariman Ardeshir in 1916, looks set to fade into memory. As a first step, the Nariman family has decided to sell its 300-acre land at Talasari on national highway no. 8. Although the family insists it will continue to run the dairy business, it is learned that the Narimans, currently comprising eight partners, will ultimately sell the brand itself”.
The report goes on to say that the “agricultural land in Warvada village on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border is expected to fetch around Rs200 crore. The family bought the plot in 1968 for livestock and to support its dairy activities”. The mandate for the sale is with Pranay Vakil of Praron Consultancy.
Sources close to the deal say that the 300-acre property touching the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway with a beautiful water body inside it has become surplus because of the changed business model of the 99-year old dairy. The property was purchased in 1968 for livestock and its dairy activities. However, over the years, the business model has changed. Instead of having its own livestock, Parsi Dairy has gradually switched to the milk-cooperative model successfully developed at Anand. Parsi Dairy now buys milk from farmers, who are encouraged to rear livestock by providing them fodder and taught how to care for cattle.
But what about the Parsi Dairy, which produces the most-loved Malai Kulfi, Dahi, Sutarfeni, milk and an array of pure ghee sweets? Well, the Times of India forgot that even if the Nariman family sells the brand, Parsi Dairy as a brand may not only survive but could even go national.
A number of national food delivery outlets such as Reliance Fresh, Big Basket and Godrej’s Nature’s Basket would be happy to own an iconic house brand that can add special value to their products. Of these, Godrej already stocks Parsi Dairy products and also likes to emphasise its Parsi-ness as a selling point.
After 100 years in the business, it is well possible that the Nariman family, whose youngest member is over 70, may want to move on. But that may not affect the brand. It seems fairly likely that the Parsi Dairy brand may probably live on and even become bigger and stronger, instead of the gradual decline in production it has witnessed in the past decade.
Interestingly, during the big initial public offering (IPO) bubble of the early 1990s, an investment banker who was a fan of Parsi Dairy products had spent a lot of time with the owners trying to persuade them to go public and grow the entire business into a national one. The investment banker had told us that he could not persuade the owners then.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, circumstances have changed. Our bet is that Parsi Dairy will complete a grand century next year with the same owners, but over time, it may live on with a new set of owners who will hopefully understand the value and fan following developed over a 100 long years.