The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pleasure of smoking tobacco sans its ills

New Delhi, June 11: Almost 20 years ago, Vazir Sultan, makers of Charminar cigarettes, attempted to come out with nicotine and tar-free cigarettes made from turmeric.

Now, Dalmia Consumer Care (DCC), an FMCG start-up company of the Rs 1,200-crore Sanjay Dalmia group, is trying to repeat the experiment with bidis.

DCC today launched a bundle of Vardaan bidi, which it touted as a safer alternative to tobacco claiming that “it stimulates the pleasure of tobacco and mimics the kick without the ills associated with it”.

Bidis are usually made out of dried tendu leaf and are smoked all over India, with the unorganised biri sector far bigger than the cigarette industry.

The DCC version of ‘healthy’ biris are affordable: a bundle of 20 bidis will cost Rs 4, while a bundle of 10 bidis will be priced at Rs 2 and a bundle of five at Re 1, said Kartik Raina, chief operating officer of Dalmia Consumer Care.

The product will be launched all over India in three phases. To start with, the first phase will cover 63 cities, including all metros, in the coming six weeks and 150 cities by December-end. The third phase will expand its reach to approximately 1,250 cities by the end of March 2005.

The Sanjay Dalmia group was a large player in the cigarette industry through GTC.

Reluctant to talk about the investments being made by DCC which claims to have spent a good amount on research and laboratory work, managing director Sudershan Banerjee said, “We will invest about Rs 50-100 crore each year over the next two to three years.”

Interestingly, the bidi bundle will be sold in a green package in eastern and north-eastern regions, and in a yellow package in the rest of the country.

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