Ramzan Opportunity in ‘Unique Rooh Afza Crisis’

Rooh Afza is a must in Iftar at Ramzan and the same is not available in market this year. The temperature is 40+ degrees and the fast is primarily of thirst. Since childhood, every Muslim has grown up with Sharbet in Iftar and that too Rooh Afza only. This summer it is the biggest crisis and the moon settled on the second day and there is no controversy reported.

The dispute is over the chair of Chief Mutawalli (equivalent to CEO) of Hamdard, which is currently held by Abdul Majeed, the great-grandson of Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed, the Unani medicine practitioner who founded the company in old Delhi over a century ago. The company also owns traditional medicine brands such as Safi, Cinkara, Masturin and Joshina.
Abdul Majeed’s cousin Hammad Ahmed has been trying to take over the company, claiming rightful inheritance. He even went to court for it, and the legal battle put a stop to the production of RoohAfza, sources said.

Hamdard is registered as an irrevocable Islamic trust, known as a waqf, and under its rules, transfers 85 per cent of its profits to the Hamdard National Foundation, an educational charity. The foundation runs, among other institutions, the Jamia Hamdard in Delhi. The deemed university has the distinction of running the only private medical college in Delhi, and this valued institution, sources say, is a major reason for the family dispute.
The battle went straight up to the Supreme Court, which in its judgment on 3 April, refused to give interim directorship to Ahmed.

Established in 1906 by Hakeem Abdul Majeed, Hamdard (meaning Sympathizer) was a Yunani medicine shop in Delhi’s Lal Kuan Bazaar. Around 1907-1908, Hakeem Majeed launched a non alcohoalic medicinal concentrate called ‘Rooh Afza’ (Soul Enhancer) to combat Delhi’s hot loo winds. Packaged in glass bottles with the iconic label by Delhi artist Mirza Noor Ahmad, Rooh Afza contained a perfect mix of fruits, vegetables, herbs and roots all infused in a sugar syrup. It is said that the first consumers were so mesmerized by the taste of this ambrosial drink that over a hundred bottles were sold in a few hours. What started as a medicinal drink became popular as a delicious summer drink all over Delhi. To meet the rising demands, Hakeem Abdul Majeed started to mass produce Rooh Afza at a factory in Ghaziabad, just outside Delhi. Soon this drink became one of the most iconic delicacies of Delhi along with Nihari and Bedami poori. By 1947, Rooh Afza was found in every kitchen in Delhi and most of the places in the United Provinces. With the September riots of 1947, Delhi’s Muslims started to flee their homes and started to take refuge in the refugee camps built in Purana Qila and Jama Masjid. Many families were torn apart, as one part opted for Pakistan and the other chose to stay behind. Hamdard was no exception. In 1948, one part of the Hamdard family headed by Said migrated to Karachi in the new state of Pakistan. Hamdard Pakistan was started from scratch in a two room rented space. The magic of Rooh Afza worked, and in no time Hamdard Pakistan became very successful. The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 resulted in a final partition when Hamdard Pakistan gave birth to Hamdard Bangladesh.

Hamdard put out no official word on why it stopped production, but tried blaming it on the shortage of “raw material”.  An estimate of 15-20 days is expected for the sherbet to be back in the market, but at that time Ramzan will be almost over. People living in Indian subcontinent are so habitual of this sherbet that it is now almost a crisis in this summer and particularly in Ramzan. Can there be any substitute for the same ? Yes, it is an opportunity for other beverage brands in market to establish themselves in this situation. Longer the absence of Rooh Afza, better for the competition. However, Rooh Afza is claiming to be back soon in market with a bang !

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