Old-timers nostalgic about this erstwhile Parsi brand
The new project, “a luxurious development with amenities like a large garden and a club house”, will take 2.5 years to complete and may tentatively incorporate a structure reminiscent of the iconic bottle although Makhija points out that the design hasn’t been finalised. But there are other aspects of the factory that residents will miss, like the 9am and 9pm factory siren—housewife Orlena Ayyar would set her watch by it— and the end of the Duke’s Ganpati. “For 12 days, our lane would be humming with activity,” recalls Ayyar. “It was such a big Ganpati that vendors would set up an informal ‘mela’ with ferris wheels and stalls.” The Ayyars have even had to officially change their address. “Our MTNL bill used to read, ‘Opposite Duke’s Factory,’” added Ayyar, “but we’ve had to change it.”
The soft drink company Duke and Sons Pvt Ltd was established in 1889 by Dinshwaji Cooverji Pandole, a school teacher, who was also a bowler for the Parsi Cricket Eleven. He travelled to England for a match in 1886 where he was struck by the popularity of bottled soft drinks. He decided to launch an indigenous brand from Bombay. The name was borrowed from a cricket ball manufacturing company, whose balls he believed were lucky for him. The first Duke’s factory was in Khetwadi, adjacent to Cama Baug, before it moved to Chembur in the early seventies, says 80-year-old Dinshaw Pandole, great grandson of the founder.
Pandole worked in the factory from 1962 until the family sold the business along with the plant to PepsiCo in 1994 when market dynamics changed because of the entry of international players. “It was one of the leading regional soft drink brands and the three main products in its arsenal were Duke’s Soda, Lemonade and Mangola,” says Pandole’s son, Darius, who helped manage the factory for a few years before it was sold. After taking over the plant, PepsiCo continued operations there till 2013 until structural safety concerns arose, which is when they moved the production of Duke’s products to their Mahul plant.
“Duke’s much-celebrated flavours have been part of every Mumbaikar’s life and the brand continues to be loved by consumers,” said a PepsiCo spokesperson. The brand is still available in Andheri, Chembur, Vashi, Thane and south Mumbai but it’s hard to spot outside of Parsi ‘lagans’ and ‘navjotes’. When Dinshaw Pandole does see it, however, he confesses to feeling a sense of “loss”. But Chembur residents are overcome with nostalgia. Jadhav recalls his school days when Mangola was available for just Rs 4.50, while Ayyar recalls her college group chipping in to buy a single bottle of Duke’s Lemonade. “It’s a homegrown Indian brand,” says Jadhav, “so I have a great attachment to it.”
This 2.5 acre plot is being redeveloped into three residential towers