ROSOGOLLA ROLLS DOWN SOUTH, DOWN UNDER 

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By BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA in Calcutta
  • Published 14.06.01
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Calcutta, June 14 :    Calcutta, June 14:  They are a rage down South. They are ready to taste sweet success Down Under. It's only at home that they're confined to a solitary Esplanade corner, with no plans to melt in the mouths of more Calcuttans. The K.C. Das rosogolla is poised to go international (read: Australia and Canada) and grow big in south India (read: Bangalore and Hyderabad). But the Calcutta supply seems to have run out of steam. Today, "white jamuns" in Bangalore record over 200 per cent more sales than rosogollas in Calcutta. This has prompted K.C. Das, inventors of the Bangali's favourite mishti, to open up another front at Hyderabad. Then, their first off-shore factories. K.C. Das tins can be seen in select stores around the world, but they are all private exports. Now, the target is supermarket shelves abroad, with the spongy sweetmeat fresh from their first factories abroad. "We are looking forward to a global market now," explains Biren Das, Krishna Chandra Das' grandson. "We are in talks with two NRIs who want to set up factories. We hope to supply to south-east Asia, West Asia and the US from the new factories. We think this will do better than the 'Made in India' label," adds Biren, who lives in Bangalore, while brother Dhirendranath, sister Manjulika and nephews Sanjoy and Dhiman look after Calcutta operations. The plan is to start out with tinned rosogollas and mishti doi, with a "greater degree of mechanisation" introduced to the family's unique method of making rosogollas by steam, perfected in their first factory at Baghbazar. After Nabin Das, or Nabin moira as he was commonly called, invented the rosogolla in 1860, he opened his first shop at Jorasanko, followed by another at Rabindra Sarani, where the Das family home now stands. Their canned sweets were started in 1930. "No one had heard of tinned food here back then," recalls Biren. The Esplanade store, opened in 1935, was another "shock" to the city, with its unique seating arrangements. Now, lower sales here is attributed to the proliferation of "sweet shops around every corner, which provide lower cost options". Around 300 one-kg tins are sold from Esplanade every day. The K.C. Das slide in Calcutta started in the 1960s, with the milk control order. Hit by the non-availability of milk, all outlets apart from the Esplanade store were closed. "We decided that for business to grow, we had to start production elsewhere," recounts Biren. The factory in Bangalore was up and running by 1972, with twice the production capacity of Calcutta. Now, they also have around seven franchisees in the Karnataka capital. Milk quality, being "of better quality" down south, yields more chhana than in Calcutta. "Son Papri is very popular and our loose rosogollas do extremely well there," says Dhiman Das. According to Biren's nephew, only two per cent of customers there are Bengali. Now, it's time to go global. The move will give the sweetmeat chain a chance to access better quality milk. "India now has the highest milk supply in the world, but it also has the worst quality," feels Biren, who looks after the Bangalore research and development centre run by K.C. Das, in collaboration with the ministry of science of technology. Higher hygiene standards and zero adulteration, he hopes, will help "increase the shelf-life of the tinned products". To further sales in view of changing consumer preferences, low-fat, sugarless, and even vitamin and mineral enriched sweets are "now being developed" by the R&D unit. But while people far and wide will now be able to walk to the shop around the corner for the K. C. Das rosogolla, Calcuttans will have to be content with small doses of the 'real' thing.