Attar sales take the online route, profits head south

Bengaluru Business Lifestyle

Covid, bad civic infrastructure hit the biz badly

Store sales of attar, which has a history of thousands of years, are seeing a decline in Bengaluru as people are shifting to online transactions.

Mohammed Ismail of AK Perfumes on Cottonpet Main Road, said: “The shock of lockdowns has still not gone. Earlier, people had a craze to buy attar, but now it has gone because they are earning less. Before Covid, I used to sell 50 ml of attar for Rs 400 now, I try to sell it for Rs 200, and people still do not buy.

“The number of customers has decreased. Earlier 20-25 customers a day were normal; now hardly five or six customers enter my shop.”

Santosh Nayar, a visitor to AK Perfumes, enquired about attar but did not buy it. “I use attar during worship. My daughter loves attar and perfumes, but she does not buy from shops. Instead, she orders online,” he informed The Observer.

Ismail imports attar from Kannauj, UP, and Assam.

Venkatesh, a fragrance manufacturer, said: “Sales are meagre; only during festivals are they good.” Sales declined because, earlier, Cottonpet road was damaged, and then Covid happened.

The price of chemicals and raw material has risen due to the Russia-Ukraine war. People who used to buy 10 litres of fragrance now buy 3 litres. “We only earn a 15 per cent profit. On Rs 600, we make Rs 90.”

Deepak Kumar of Sri Beereshwara Fragrance, Cottonpet Main Road, said his shop was five times bigger than his present one, but he could not afford its rent. 

“People’s financial situation has worsened after demonetisation and GST imposition. Now customers ask for attar worth Rs 20-25. I don’t sell cheap attar. The company in Bombay I order raw materials from mixes cheap material; the attar we sell is not pure. I am hardly able to make Rs 500 a day. We take loans from local moneylenders who give us Rs 25,000, which we have to repay in 100 days. Another problem is the increase in the online sales of attar.”

Irfan Shariff of IRS Perfume World, Mysuru, said attar is made by extracting oil from fruits and vegetables. The oil is then distilled.

“Perfumes are luxury products and expensive. After Covid, many people have lost their jobs. Hence, they do not buy attar. Business is slowly picking up. The cost of raw material has increased by 5-6%.”

Asked how they maintain quality, he said: “We keep attar in umber bottles in shady places. This way, attar can last five years. But after six years, the quality of the attar starts declining. It becomes thick.”

When quality degrades, attar is used in making agarbattis. Hence, nothing gets wasted.

Jabeer Mohammed, manager at IRS Perfume World, near Commercial Street, said they are planning to move the business online and working on a new marketing strategy.

Perfume is one product that should be sold only after a skin trial – conducted to check whether the buyer is allergic  to it. This is one of the obstructions in selling perfumes online.

Ajmal Perfumes on Dickenson Road, one of the most famous international attar shops in Bengaluru, refused to share information.

Yukta Mudgal
Trainee Journalist at IIJNM.

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