“Soon you will see the bottle which brings enjoyment the world over!”, heralded a series of 1950 Baghdad newspaper ads. Most of the ads featured the famous Coke bottle as a centerpiece to drum up interest and demand while announcing that “Delicious and Refreshing Coca-Cola is on its way to Baghdad.”
The pair was finally able to get their operation off the ground in the summer of 1950. The original contour bottles they filled were embossed with the Coca-Cola script in both Arabic and English and a cap that read: “Bottled in Iraq”. Post-launch newspaper ads declared, “After months of waiting it is with us now!” – an indication that there was indeed quite the delay on the introduction.
Ironically, Naim Dangoor is – like the iconic Coke bottle – a centenarian, born 100 years ago in Baghdad. His son, David, shared some scanned versions of his father’s detailed business plans from the era that he came across while cleaning up. While we know that Coke cost a nickel in the United States for over 70 years, the documents give a glimpse of how the initial retail price of Coke bottles in Iraq was determined.
While the Coca-Cola head office suggested 20 fils as the retail price, Naim Dangoor concluded that selling at 14 fils would bring much more profit based on his projected revenue forecast estimated prior to launch. Before the days of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Dangoor created intricate charts and graphs to convince The Coca-Cola Company that his proposition was the right approach.
“You can see that he was very methodical about deciding what the price should be,” his son David remarked while sharing hand-drawn analyses of pricing versus costs of goods, advertising, rent, property taxes, wages, coolers, cases, bottles and ingredients.
Perhaps the elder Dangoor was so methodical because of his studies in engineering at London University. In the 1930s, he made the five-day journey from Baghdad to London on his own to enroll in the university at the age of 17. After graduating, he returned to his native Iraq, where he would eventually form Eastern Industries Ltd. with his business partner, Ahmed Safwat, a fellow Iraqi and London University graduate.
Naim Dangoor, who happens to be Jewish, and Ahmed Safwat, who happened to be Muslim, met at a military training in Iraq, and “they immediately hit it off and decided they had to go into business together,” David recalled.
At 100 years old, Naim Dangoor is still devoted increasingly to charitable work with a focus on education in London, where he’s lived since the mid-1960s. He also continued working in real estate, and his four sons followed him in the business.
Jamal Booker is manager of heritage communications at The Coca-Cola Company.