The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The bridge, the river and kids' play. Brilliantly captured by Sujay Kumar Das.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The humble amla reinvented


Amla was always available in dried, salted and spiced form among vendors in local trains from Kolkata. One of the leading brands was Vivekananda Ayurvedic Home. Quite a few years ago it started being available with the vendors raw, thinly sliced, in tiny poly pouches. They were avialble at a new, throwaway price point- just Re 1. Many people knew the health benefits of eating amla raw but never got themselves to buy and slice it. They got a readymade solution and lapped it up.

Then someone thought of 'product differentiation' seriously and came up with a preparation of sliced raw amla mixed with coriandar chutney, available at no premium- just Re 1 (In local train vending charging a premium is difficult. The competition is in giving consumers more value at the same price). The taste improved vastly and it sold very well. It possibly created a new market because so many passengers avoided raw amla as the taste did not suit them and went for the traditional dry amla. It inspired a trend among fellow vendors very soon as they followed suit.

Amla since then has come across another avatar- raw and spiced.

Just today as I was at Bidhannagar station to board a local train to Barrackpore to visit my parents, I came across another new avatar with a vendor- raw amla mixed with coriandar and ginger. Yes, at the same price. The taste was a little different from the coriandar avatar.

While all this is very good as the health benefits remain intact or increases with additions like coriandar/ ginger, it definitely is the passenger's gain, health-wise. Hence the experimentation is welcome.