South Mumbai’s iconic 107-year-old Parsi Dairy Farm dons a new avatar


September 14, 2023

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The idea is to transform the dairy experience and make it more interactive for the younger generation, says the fourth generation manning the business.

Written by Heena Khandelwal | Indian Express


The dairy houses large windows that face the bustling street outside. (Photo courtesy: Special arrangement)

What do you visualise when you imagine a dairy? Large vessels containing milk or a handful of refrigerators with packets of milk, paneer and khoya? The newly revamped Parsi Dairy Farm, a 107-year-old dairy on Princess Street, Marine Lines, is anything but that.

Designed by Shahen Mistry Architects, a bright red door welcomes the guests. The open layout allows for easy browsing through the range of mithais—peda, khaja, piped jalebi, pag laddoo, milk cake—put inside display fridges, which are housed in old-style wooden counters. The cafe-like space on its left has a small seating area with a handful of tables, chairs and modak-shaped pouffes.


This is how the Parsi Dairy looked back in the day. (Photo courtesy: Special arrangement)

The wheel of time turns as you look at the wall adjacent to it, which offers a peek into the store’s legacy. There are original milk coupons, old advertisements of the dairy’s butter and yoghurt, and the cobalt blue uniform that its milkmen—known popularly as the blue brigade—would wear while supplying milk door-to-door. Also on display are a few black and white as well as colour pictures of the family, which has been in the business since 1916 when 18-year-old Nariman Ardeshir began this dairy with a can of milk. Today, it has 300 acres of farmland catering to the growing demand.

The focus is to retain new customers but also keep the regulars feel at home. “The products are still the same, the recipes remain intact and so do the ingredients. Our sutarfeni is still handcrafted, our ghee is golden and danedar and we still hand-churn our malai,” shares Parvana S Mistry. An alumna of Le Cordon Bleu, London, the 35-year-old is involved in the production and operation. Her sister Zeenia K Patel handles branding and marketing while their cousins Sarfaraz and Bakhtyar K Irani handle sales and accounts, respectively. Together they comprise the fourth generation running this family business.


Bakhtyar K. Irani, Parvana S. Mistry, Meheru K. Patel, Shernaz K.Irani, Zeenia K. Patel, Sarfaraz K. Irani, Seated Jeroo Nariman. (Photo courtesy: Special arrangement)

While the four have been coming to the dairy ever since they can remember, it was a crisis that made them formally enter the business. “Sometime in 2006-2007, the workers went on a strike, which made all of us quit everything that we were doing and deal with it alongside our mothers,” says Sarfaraz. There has been no looking back since.

When asked if they noticed a change since the opening of the revamped dairy, Parvana says that the cafe is usually bustling in the early evening hours. “We see young college-goers stopping by to have a glass of lassi or kulfi, and taking selfies… it becomes more lively,” she adds.

Catching one’s attention from every corner is the toffee vending machine, now renamed as The Great Indian Toffee. It dispenses its famous milk drops and shares the limelight with two large refrigerators on its sides carrying a variety of dairy products including milk, paneer, ghee, lassi, sweet curd and mishti doi.


Their display fridges are housed in old-style wooden counters. (Photo courtesy: Special arrangement)

The dairy also houses large windows that face the bustling street outside. While it allows plenty of natural light to come inside, it also serves as Parsi Dairy Farm’s art canvas. The dairy worked with creative agency Please See and production designer Tiya Tejpal to advertise their hot selling products in an eye-catching style. One of the windows is decked up with large milk, lassi and dahi containers playing roly-poly. Another sees ghee jars stacked such that they spell the word Ghee.

“We are seeing people stopping by to click pictures with artworks,” Zeenia says, adding that they want the dairy to become more lively and attractive to a new generation of customers. “These refrigerators allow people to step in, grab the products and head to the cash counter without waiting for someone to get it for you,” she points out.

Their toffee machine is designed keeping in mind the children. “Say, your parents are going to a dairy. The children wouldn’t want to give them company because a dairy is considered a boring place. So we rebranded our toffee, gave it a whole circus-kind vibe and added a dispensing machine to make it fun,” she says. In another corner of the store is a gift shop that helps customers curate gift hampers to their liking.

But the revamp is not limited to just the appearance. There are serious expansion plans in store. “We are opening two more physical outlets—in Borivali and Ghatkopar—in the next two months,” says Sarfaraz. The plan eventually looks at expanding the dairy to other parts of Maharashtra, then to Gujarat, Delhi, Bangalore and other parts of India. “And, hopefully some day across the world.”

If you are wondering how the fourth generation is carrying forward the legacy so well, you are in for a surprise. The fifth generation is already expressing interest. “The other day Parvana’s daughter was visiting the store when she looked at our ice cream barfi, which is pink in colour and has sprinkles on the top, and said ‘Maasi, this should be called Barbie barfi’. We are actually taking that suggestion seriously and adding that as a hashtag under the original name,” adds Zeenia. Well, here’s to another 100 years of Parsi Dairy Farm.