The business venture offers clean oxygen as the city's air contains tiny and toxic pollutants that penetrate lungs and bloodstreams and cause life-threatening diseases.
Out of New Delhi's hazardous air quality someone has found a business opportunity. As damaging air quality has blanketed India's capital city, a small entrepreneurial venture named Oxy Pure provides something the people rarely get in the city – ‘pure air’.
Founded by Aryavir Kumar, 26, and Margarita Kuritsyana, 25, Oxy Pure is Delhi’s first-ever oxygen bar, operating from one of the trendy shopping malls in South Delhi’s Saket area. The owners say they offer 15 minutes of 80-90 percent pure oxygen.
Each session of oxygen-therapy costs between $4 and $7, depending on the flavour a customer opts for. At least seven flavours – lavender, cinnamon, spearmint, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass and orange — are on the menu.
Customers are given a lightweight nasal tube for supplementary oxygen intake. The device is clipped to nostrils and with each breath aroma-infused oxygen enters human lungs.
The owner of the oxygen bar says the concept exists in many countries abroad and he experienced it in the United States two years back.
“The beginning wasn’t as good as we expected it to be but slowly awareness grew about the brand. But due to the rise in pollution levels there has been a sudden increase of people coming to breathe pure air at the Oxy Bar,” said owner of the Oxy Pure, Aryavir Kumar.
“The number has almost doubled since last month,” he added.
Kumar has a degree in hospitality from Switzerland and his family runs a chain of hotels across the country.
“I felt this is very interesting and it has got health benefits, why not bring it to my home country,” he said. “Initially, customers were very surprised and wondered what it is and how it works.
“The overall response has been good but there are some people who on social media write that why don’t we plant trees instead of going to such ventures.”
Based on the aroma a customer picks, some oxygen therapy sessions are believed to improve a person’s sinus, sleep patterns and digestion, cure headaches and migraines, and even act as an anti-depressants.
The session is not recommended for more than 15 minutes. “If the session is given for 20 or 25 minutes, a person’s lungs can swell and can feel pain in the stomach,” Abhilash Singh, 24, who works as a Sales Associate at Oxy Bar, told TRT World.
“It felt really very nice to go for this session, though I know it’s just for 15 minutes,” said Prerna Talwar, 32, who tried oxygen therapy for the first time.
“Usually, when I’m out I take heavier breaths and it sort of pains my chest a bit. But, I feel calm right now. It feels as if I’m at a hill station right now. I wish it feels same outside this bar as well,” she told TRT World.
New Delhi tops the chart of most polluted city in the world. Vehicles and industrial activities are major contributors to air pollution, along with rampant construction, but every year around October-November, the air quality in the Indian capital becomes hazardous due to crop burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana.
Earlier this month, New Delhi’s air quality broke all records, when it was in the hazardous range for nine consecutive days, making this the longest spell of hazardous air quality since public records began.
Authorities were forced to announce a public health emergency and launch a controversial vehicle rationing scheme for 10 days after levels of PM 2.5 - the particulate matter that penetrates through the lungs into the bloodstream - in the air surpassed 999 microgrammes in many locations. The World Health Organization (WHO) places the safe limit at 25 microgrammes.
A study of the Air Quality Life Index by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, released this month, said that the life expectancy of people living in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, comprising of the states of Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, has reduced by up to seven years due to poor air quality.
Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called Delhi a "gas chamber" announcing that five million pollution masks will be distributed to students across the country's capital.
“I came to know about this bar two days ago through a website and I found it very relevant because these days Delhi is suffering from toxic air. Apart from getting the feel of fresh air, I heard the session also helps in a person’s health as well so I thought I should go for it,” said 39-year-old Sharbani Banerjee.
Ms Banerjee said that people have been spending on so many things like packaged water and “now we pay for clean air”.
Pious Saraswat, 30, working in a diagnostic startup in Gurgaon, sees the business as an interesting idea amid rising pollution levels in the capital city and the National Capital Region (NCR).
“For the past few weeks, it has been terribly bad situation in New Delhi and NRC. Going out means walking into a gas chamber. To have an outlet like Oxy Pure means people can at least come and breathe pure air, no matter how short the session is,” Saraswat said.
However, he says that people belonging to a particular class can afford such a facility and it’s no way a solution to Delhi’s air pollution.
“I understand that this is not a permanent solution to pollution from any angle but if we don’t wake up, time is not far when we would require more such outlets,” he said.
“It’s terrible that we have to pay for breathing pure air,” said Diksha Das.