Unforgotten Brands: Charminar Cigarettes


Both the brand and the Charminar monument contributed to each other’s fame. The brand became a best-seller and then fell by the wayside.


An aspiring Bangalore businessman, Janab Mohammad Abdus Sattar, was convinced to visit the “City of Pearls” in the late 1920s by a Hyderabadi Vazir Sultan after he had already attempted to start a cigarette company in Bangalore.

Vazir Sultan and Mohammad Abdus Sattar established the Vazir Sultan Tobacco Company (VST) in Narayanguda in 1927. “Within the dominions of Nizam of Hyderabad” is where VST Industries Limited was authorised to start.

It introduced the Charminar cigarette brand. Instantly popular, Charminar captured a portion of the market share in the state in only the first year it was open for business.

British American Tobacco (BAT) took notice of VST as it was growing and bought out the bulk of its shares in 1928 and 1929. The founders of VST Industries owned only 5% of the company after British American Tobacco acquired the majority of the stock.

But in the early 1970s, the Indian government mandated that all businesses comply with the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act and keep foreign ownership below 40%.

Selling Charminar to the Nizam’s territories was the first step in making the brand a public face for the enterprise. According to anecdotes from WWII, the Charminar cigarette brand gained a household name in India when the troops stationed there developed a strong affinity for them. Charminar became one of the world’s top ten best-selling cigarettes. Every fourth cigarette smoked in India was a Charminar.

Two decades later, in 1998–1999, the business suffered massive financial losses, and Charminar was gradually removed from sale. This might be attributed, in part, to the increased public knowledge of the risks associated with smoking.

The ‘Charminar’ Aspect

The advertisements for Charminar are partially responsible for the monument’s fame. Charminar cigarette advertisements, featuring Jackie Shroff asking you to “Relax, Have a Charminar! and other famous artists, evoked strong emotions at a time when health warnings weren’t required on cigarette packaging.

An advertisement for Charminar cigarettes from the ’80s featured him. Dev Anand, who was always on the lookout for fresh faces, saw this ad and hired Jackie in his 1982 film Swami Dada. The film bombed. But Subhash Ghai cast him in Hero after seeing him.

charminar jackie

The Baseline

The flagship advertising slogan of Charminar, “Relax, Have a Charminar!” had Deepak Mankar among its contributors. Reluctantly, he recalled, he embarked on this artistic pursuit.

“Although I am a smoker, I preferred not to encourage others to start smoking,” he revealed to ThePrint. Mankar was anxious about something on one of those occasions” when asked where the slogan originated from. Errol Sequeira, the copywriter on the Charminar account, quipped, ‘Relax. Have a Charminar.’ A light bulb went out in Deepak’s brain. He said, “I believe that’s your headline, right there.”

Thanks to the widespread recognition that resulted from employing the iconic landmark of Hyderabad as a marketing ambassador, the company’s products quickly became household names.

The monument was used in the Charminar print ads, which connected VST Industries to the aristocratic past of India. To encourage the local business that specialised in rolling cigarettes with roasted tobacco, Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, smoked Charminar cigarettes.



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