This could be the bestselling idea in a city ranked as the most polluted in the world. As a toxic smog shrouded Delhi in India early this month, people noticed an oxygen bar selling bouts of fresh air at a trendy shopping mall.
The bar is run by a startup, OxyPure, “to provide customers with a rejuvenating experience after long hours of shopping”.
The freestanding bar has an oxygen concentrator that purifies the ambient air, providing customers 80% to 90% pure oxygen from a disposable nasal cannula along with aromatherapy. Customers put a tube in their nose and breathe in the air that bubbles through scented oils. Eucalyptus, lemongrass, orange and cinnamon are some of the fragrances on the menu. The session lasts for 10-15 minutes and, according to the company, leaves you with more vigour and energy.
Fifteen minutes of fresh air can be bought for nearly $6. The price varies with different aromas.
“There is a tremendous response to this first-of-its-kind oxygen bar in Delhi,” says owner Ayavir Kumar. He claims that the purified oxygen can offer people relief from toxic air, fatigue, sleep disorders, hangovers and even depression.
Now the bar also sells portable cans of clean air.
Construction dust, vehicle emissions, smoke from burning of crop stubble in the neighbouring agricultural states and atmospheric conditions turn Delhi into a toxic city in November. This month the government closed schools, restricted the number of vehicles on the roads and banned construction due to a heavy smog hanging over the city.
The air in early November is so polluted that it stings your eyes and a burning smell hangs even inside homes.
However, the oxygen bar does not impress everyone. There is no scientific basis to the claim that breathing pure oxygen for 15 minutes a day is beneficial for your health.
“What use is 15 minutes of oxygen when pollution is many times the international safe limits here, equal to smoking 30 cigarettes a day?” says a Delhi resident who describes the oxygen bar as a gimmick, exploiting the alarm over pollution for commercial purposes.
This is not the first time someone thought of selling fresh air.
A few years ago, Alberta entrepreneurs Moses Lam and Troy Paquette started canning fresh Banff air to sell it around the world. Their company, Vitality Air, has been doing about $300,000 in annual sales for the past couple of years through online purchases and retail stores in South Korea.
They hope once they reach China or India their sales would be in millions.