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From the rarest of medicinal herbs from Nepal to the choicest of dry fruits from Afghanistan, you name it and you will find it all here at the 173-year-old Munnalal Dawasaz in the Afzal Gunj area of the Old City. The shop was set up in 1844 by two brothers Laxminarayan Vijayvargi and Sitaram Vijayvargi, who migrated from Rajasthan and sensed a business opportunity in the thriving Unani medicine practice in Hyderabad. The city had many hakeems practicing Unani medicine who required herbs to make medicines and to fulfil their demand, the duo used to procure herbs from all over the country. Apart from hakeems, even the 'vaids' practicing Ayurvedic medicine too became its customers. Soon, along with herbs, the brothers also started retailing spices and dry fruits at the Afzal Gunj premises. In those days, the shop did not have any name but the firm was registered as 'Laxminarayan Sitaram'.

"Since early days, we have been considered pioneers in sourcing herbs as hakeems and vaids would prefer to buy from us. The reason is that we have been very particular about sourcing herbs from the place it belongs to. The herbs acquire certain properties based on the soil in which they are grown and factors like air, temperature, heat etc play an important role. This helps in retaining their medicinal properties. Till today, we ensure that we procure herbs from their place of origin, thus ensuring quality and efficacy," says Akash Vijayvargi, a member of the fourth generation of the Vijayvargi family who runs the business along with his two brothers - Vikas and Deepak.

"Balkishanji was fondly called 'Munna' and the shop was known as 'Muniya ki Dukaan'. This is how, the shop was christened Munnalal Dawasaaz but the firm's name remains Laxminarayan Sitaram," he says, adding that it was also during Balkishan's time the existing building was constructed.

Balkishan was joined by his only son Bhagwandas in the late 1950s when a lot of Unani and Ayurvedic pharmacies had sprung up in Hyderabad, thus ensuring robust business. Bhagwandas also added regular kirana items to the shop. "In a way it was a supermarket of sorts. My father (Bhagwandas) had an idea that when people come to buy spices, herbs or dry fruits at our shop they must also be able to get other regular items so that they do not have to go elsewhere," he explains. Despite adding new segments, Munnalal Dawasaz never lost its mojo i.e. the quality of its herbs and till today draws customers from across neighbouring states, who swear by the quality and efficacy of its herbs in dried as well as powdered forms. Over the years, not only has the shop but the clientele too has evolved. "We are seeing a surge in demand for herbs. These days a lot of educated people are taking interest in understanding the medicinal properties of these herbs and using it for various purposes.

In fact, we see many people, who are well traveled, walk up to us and ask for a certain herb... this also helps us in expanding our portfolio," Deepak says. Today, Munnalal Dawasaz has set up two outlets - one in Banjara Hills Road No 12 and another at Appa Junction. Apart from its physical outlets, it also has an online presence and is still a favourite among Unani medicine practitioners as well as Ayurveda enthusiasts who believe in the magic of herbs.

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Publication:Pakistan & Gulf Economist
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 30, 2017

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