June 13, 2023
A 1989 Doordarshan ad opens with a handful of young boarding school boys clamoring over a bottle in matching pajamas in the dark. The headmaster, upon hearing the commotion, walks toward the room, prompting the boys to scurry into bed and feign being asleep. A boy starts passing the bottle to another by rolling it on the floor between their beds.
As the headmaster catches one of the boys rolling the glass bottle, the boy innocently pleads, “Hajmola, sir!” The ad’s plot, along with its catchy jingle, made it instantly memorable, especially when few TV ads existed.
Hajmola — the spicy-sour digestive-aid-turned-candy — has made South Asians both salivate and shudder in disgust for decades. Comparable to Australian Marmite or Southeast Asian durian for its polarizing smell and taste, Hajmola isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But those that love it can’t have just one. How did Dabur, the Ayurveda conglomerate, transform what is effectively a laxative into a South Asian household staple, and even inspire dupes?