Aishwarya Ramesh

Rasna’s ‘lovable journey’ into the 21st century

Rasna's founder Areez Khambatta recently passed away. A look at the brand's relevance and journey to this day and age.

Many 1980s and 90s kids are quite familiar with Rasna, but Gen Z may not follow along that well. The fruit juice concentrate powder was easy to prepare, convenient and pocket-friendly.

Areez Pirojshaw Khambatta, the man behind this iconic product, passed away on November 20, 2022, following a cardiac arrest. He was 85 years old at the time of his death.

Areez Khambatta
Areez Khambatta

When Khambatta first created the fruit juice concentrate, it was called ‘Jaffe’. In the late 1970s - it was relaunched as the brand we know it today - Rasna.

According to an NDTV report, Rasna is sold in 1.8 million retail outlets overseas. The distribution network includes 26 departments across different parts of India. The network also includes 200 super stockists, 5,000 stockists and a 900-strong salesforce team - responsible for covering 1.6 million outlets.

According to reports, Khambatta is survived by his wife Persis, children Piruz, Delna, and Ruzan and other family members. Piruz got involved with the family business in 1997. By 1998, he took over as chairman and managing director, and has been trying to create a brand that stays relevant in this day and age.

Under Piruz, Rasna has variants in flavour, preparation process packaging, SKUs in an attempt to keep up with the modern consumer. Rasna, as a product, faces competition from various categories - carbonated drinks, fresh pressed fruit juices, smoothies, milkshakes, caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, and more.

Rasna has been trying to keep up with the times, but how successful has it been in its endeavour?

KS Narayanan
KS Narayanan

KS Narayanan, a food and beverages industry expert (formerly with McCain Foods and Unilever), agrees that in today’s day and age, a product like Rasna, indeed, has multiple competitors. The time in history that it exists in, makes a big difference to its popularity.

“At the time of its introduction, Rasna was an instant hit. This was back in the early 80s and 90s. It was also around this time that television was introduced in India. As TV ads gained popularity, brands made good use of the medium. They created ads that became popular and reached out to as many people as possible.”

At one point, Rasna was a popular name for a baby girl, whose parents had grown up drinking the sugary orange drink.

KV Sridhar (Pops), global chief creative officer, Nihilent & Hypercollective, says that Mudra Communications (now DDB Mudra India) created a campaign - ‘I love you Rasna’ - that won hearts.

Narayanan tells us that the other preparable drink which was popular at home, was squash - made with fruit concentrate. That’s when Rasna stepped in, with a ready-to-prepare beverage that could be easily made in large quantities, and shared with friends and family.

“Rasna was also far more economical and convenient to make, as compared to squash. It was a relevant product, with good brand communication, and this combination built Rasna into an unforgettable brand,” adds Narayanan.

“Rasna was popular, kids were served chaas or lassi or Rooh Afza at home. The powder format made it an innovative product. It became a new rage. However, it’s not that popular now. People know Rasna as ‘my mother's brand’, not ‘my brand’. One step further, Surf Excel’s Lalita-ji brand is ‘my grandmother's brand’ and so it goes on,” says Sridhar.

All these brands are heavily attached to people, but Rasna's brand ambassador was a little girl - better known as the Rasna girl. Sridhar argues that she was relevant to all audiences.

“The world has changed, so why would anyone opt for Rasna? It's essentially sugar, with a little bit of food colouring. At the time, it was a new technology and got people all excited. Indians were trying to find Indianness in everything they do,” argues Sridhar.

'Pops' KV Sridhar
'Pops' KV Sridhar

Sridhar takes the example of older brands like Bajaj, Godrej, Premier Padmini and Hindustan Motors to illustrate the fact that these brands promised Indians a new lifestyle.

“The consumers had a new enthusiasm towards brands. There was also a social angle to it - one person would make a jug of Rasna and then distribute it to everyone in the colony. That may not be the case anymore,” says Sridhar.

At the time when cola drinks were popular in India, children still weren’t allowed to drink it. Sugar, after all, makes a child hyperactive.

“Rasna is simple to make. The preparation is so simple that even kids can make it. Their involvement in the making of Rasna, also made it appealing. Essentially, Rasna was a product relevant to its time. It has to reinvent itself and change in such a way that it excites today's children,” adds Sridhar.

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