BY TEAM B&C
With the harsh summer heat beating down on us, a sure quick way of staying hydrated would be to have a chilled and refreshing glass of bubbling sweet lime soda.
Preparing lime soda, locally known as ‘limbu soda’, is usually a business that runs throughout the year. However, with people gulping down more glasses, this number tends to spurt during summertime. Lime soda outlets sell an average of 100 – 110 glasses during the months between March and May. But, it drops drastically to 20 to 25 glasses during winter and monsoon as people switch to tea and coffee, says a vendor in Ponda.
“Though there are numerous soft drink and ‘nimbu pani’ brands available in the market, it does not affect us as people prefer a natural drink made fresh rather than having such factory-made products,” informs Deepak Bhandari who has been operating his cart near Panaji market for the last 25 years.
Bhandari points out that health-conscious customers tend to opt for fresh lime soda and are particular about cleanliness and hygiene at their outlets. Even the ice cubes are sourced from reputed ice manufacturers who only use filtered drinking water.
A glass of limbu soda costs Rs 20, while at a mid-sized restaurant it is normally priced it at Rs 50. On a daily average, vendors earn Rs 400 – 600. Business volumes have increased over the years, however, there has been a steady decline in margins due of fluctuating lemon prices, especially during summer season. Most of the vendors purchase lemons in small quantities as it is a perishable item, and the taste can vary if not consumed soon.
Lime soda makers say that they do not want their children to continue with their businesses “as it affects family life” and is not a reliable source of income. For these them, the business is like a 12-hour job that is solely dependent on their personal presence as they cannot rely on a paid worker. However, some of them do keep a paid assistant or family member in times of emergencies.
The lime soda business is largely unorganised and constitutes around 5 per cent of the total beverage industry. It is an important medium for many people from the lower strata of society to earn a living. Lime soda vendors have urged the government to reduce the monthly municipal tax of Rs 500 which is collected on an annual basis. They also want the government to formulate a scheme through the horticulture department to incentivise and popularise the business.