Sharif Beverages Ltd and Arabi Cola – by K.K. Shahid

Sharif Beverages Ltd is a Pakistani multinational beverage corporation that deals with the production, manufacture, retail, marketing, import and export of drinks and syrup concentrates. The company is owned by the Sharif brothers and is best known for its dealing with Sharbat-e-Kufr. Its headquarter shifts between Raiwind and Jeddah, depending on the political situation in Pakistan.

The company was founded in 1976 by the elder Sharif brother, after the family’s steel industries melted in the political heat. That moment onwards Sharif decided that the only way to counter this heat was to invest time, effort and money in the drinks industry and supply beverages to those that were thirsty. 37 years later, both the steel industries and the beverage company are flourishing like never before.

Just like the steel industries in the ‘70s, the beverage company was shut down in 1999, but the Sharif brothers, using their marketing nous and the clout of their Saudi investors, managed to conjure a spectacular comeback that has seen their company reach the pinnacle of drinks industry in the summer of 2013.

The year 2013 has seen unprecedented temperature rises in Pakistan, with the masses desperate for their chosen company to come up with a solution to quench their thirst. The solution that is earmarked is Arabi Cola – a carbonated energy drink that is supposed to generate power inside your system – that will be imported in volumes by the company this summer. The makers of the Arabi Cola are the same Arabian investors that have invested in Sharif Beverages and have bailed out the brothers and their business on numerous occasions.

The special ingredients in Arabi Cola, hydrocarbons salafane and wahabene are present in abundance in the Arabian soil, which ensure that in addition to generating electricity in the overall system, the drink also acts as a medicine to purge out the impurities. Arabi Cola has had a huge market in Pakistan ever since renowned entrepreneur and beverage magnate Zee Haque began dealing with Sharbat-e-Kufr and Arabian drinks in the late ‘70s. However, following his tragic death in 1988 – after a blender exploded when Haque was making mango milkshake in flight – the Arabian businessmen have earmarked Sharif Beverages as their chief supply company.

The Arabian investors are giving the Sharifs massive discounts for Arabi Cola’s import, with the tankers set to bring in unprecedented liquid volumes to the Pakistani shores. The demand and supply gap for the Middle Eastern soft drink has reached its zenith, and this cola bailout seems like a generous gesture on the part of the Arabs – except that it’s not. For, the only reason they are providing massive subsidies on the colas is because they themselves are planning on upping the ante on the import of a beverage they simply can’t manufacture domestically: the much craved Sharbat-e-Kufr.

Sharbat-e-Kufr is a red concentrated squash that is made with infidel extracts. It is said to be formulated in the Arab laboratories in the 7th century AD, with the distribution of the recipe around the world beginning in the 8th century AD. While the recipe has been present in the Indian subcontinent for centuries, it was Zee Haque who ensured the proliferation of refineries in Pakistan, which helped in the extraction of the raw materials needed to make the squash. Some of the most renowned extraction firms like LeJ and ASWJ (formerly SSP, renamed in 2002 after issues over copyrights) use their advertising and marketing skills to increase the production of the liquid, which is cherished in the Arabian Peninsula.

Leading marketers like Malik Ishaq, Ahmed Ludhianvi and Aurangzeb Farooqi and international brand ambassadors like Hakimullah Mehsud are toiling hard to ensure that the precipitously rising demand of the squash is matched by its supply. Meanwhile, Sharif Beverages has maintained friendly ties with these ambassadors and marketers, collaborating on many a front to ensure that the foreign demand is always met. The biggest factories for the production of Sharbat-e-Kufr in Pakistan are located in Parachinar, Quetta, Karachi and parts of Gilgit-Baltistan. Even so, the marketing strategies, advertisement campaigns and headquarters are all located in various parts of Punjab and in the country’s North-West. With an immensely intricate network in place, combining refineries, factories, beverage companies, marketers, and salesmen who are all working seamlessly owing to Saudi funding, there is never any supply shortage of Sharbat-e-Kufr.

Over the past couple of decades the Saudi investors have splurged over a $100 billion dollars on the production, import and export of Sharbat-e-Kufr and they are hell bent on ensuring that market for their favourite beverage grows to new towering heights. And with Sharif Beverages forming the status quo in the Pakistani beverage industry the Saudis are now looking towards their chums to make full use of the rich resources in Pakistan, and increase the export of Saudi Arabia’s number one drink.

The Sharifs are desperate for cola import since that is the only drink that can counter the dehydration in Pakistan and they simply can’t get the cola at anyway near the rates and volume that the Saudi businessmen are putting on the table. Having said that, the agreement awaiting Mr Sharif’s signature clearly calls for a raise in Sharbat-e-Kufr export, for which the Sharif brothers have all the necessary arrangements in place. The only question mark that remains is over the dynamics of the deal. 

Are the Saudis asking for a bottle of the red squash for every bottle of cola? Would they settle for one for every two cola bottles, or even three? How much leeway can Sharif Beverages afford, before they succumb to the squash’s demand in Arabia and the cola’s back home? It’s a tough decision, and one that could determine the future of the beverage company in Pakistan. And the Sharifs are probably standing next to their Raiwind drawing board right now, trying to balance the two liquids on a prudently calibrated weighing scale.


Twitter: @khuldune