Now, 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 agricultural land in Warvada village on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border is expected to fetch around Rs 200 crore. The family bought the plot in 1968 for livestock and to support its dairy activities.
Real estate consultant Pranay Vakil of Praron Consultancy, appointed by the Narimans to advise them on the land sale, said: “The property touches the national highway. It can be used either for an integrated township, a special economic zone, a residential colony or an amusement park.”
Over the past decade-and-a-half, the Parsi Dairy business has plummeted—from supplying 15,000 litres of milk a day to barely 2,000 litres today. The clientele is mainly in south Mumbai, from Walkeshwar to Cuffe Parade and Colaba. A labour strike in 2006 further crippled the business. Family sources claimed the annual turnover today is around Rs 10 crore.
Regular clients at the dairy farm’s popular outlet at Princess Street near Marine Lines station worry that the institution may shut down. “This is terrible news,” said V Chandra, a regular at the shop. “Its dahi (curd) is the best in the city; thick enough to cut, rich and creamy and never sour, delicious enough to eat on its own. I always get the small matka of dahi—it makes an excellent starter—but often end up buying the large matka out of sheer greed.”
According to her, the Parsi dairy milk is comparable in flavour and creaminess to some of the newer organic, farm fresh organic brands. “The paneer and sweets are also outstanding,” she said.
Parsi historian and author Marzban Giara said the dairy is renowned for the quality of its milk, lassi, kulfis, pasteurized white butter, pure ghee and Indian sweets. “For many years I used to meet Naval Nariman Hoyvoy (who ran the business till he died), a burly gentleman dressed in white clothes, at the shop at Princess Street. He was a stickler for punctuality and wanted me to visit him in the morning at 8.30am. He would buy books on Zoroastrianism and Parsi history from me. He would then offer me a glass of pure milk,” said Giara.
He added, “After the 10th World Zoroastrian Congress in Mumbai, a group of Parsi Zoroastrian youths from around the world visited Parsi Dairy Farm as one of the places under the Return to Roots program.”
Shernaaz Engineer, editor, Jam-e-Jamshed, a community newspaper said, “It’s sad to see iconic Parsi institutions fade away from the face of Mumbai. Parsi Dairy Farm has fed generations of Parsis—from its early morning milk to the malai kulfis served at our navjotes and lagans. Its pure ghee has greased our innards dollop by wholesome dollop! Its matka of mithoo dahi has forever accompanied festive sev in our homes. Its myriad mithais (sutterfeni, jalebi, penda, ladoos) have marked all the major milestones in our lives—births, anniversaries, engagements, graduations and God knows what else. You just can’t take the elemental ‘Parsi’ out of Parsi Dairy Farm—it would be tragic.”