Once a dedicated financial services professional for a global brand in Dubai, Hilal Khan, has been juggling between two loves of his life. The first being Coca-Cola memorabilia. That, in essence, has been the story of his life ever since.

Hilal has a passion for collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia and has items in his repertoire that could be the envy of collectors from around the world. His collection is still growing and includes cans, PET and glass bottles, campaign material and other goodies from nearly 30 countries around the world.

In India, Hilal is truly a one-of-a kind collector. His collection, stacked carefully at his home, has brands of The Coca-Cola Company beyond the classic Coca-Cola too.

“My family thinks I am mad but I am in love with the products that Coca-Cola makes. I am grateful to all friends from around the world who have helped me build the collection,” Hilal says.

Humble beginning for the passion

His passion for collecting memorabilia did not happen by chance. At different retail outlets in Dubai, he had notice special edition bottles being sold, ones he had never seen in India. During the holy month of Ramzan, there were some special edition bottles he received which he did not feel like throwing away because of the messages they had. Soon, he started accumulating more bottles and cans, with different kinds of messages on them.

The collection has grown immensely from having traded with Coca-Cola collectors from around the world.

When his newly-wed wife had entered their home, she promptly asked for them to be thrown away. There was little value she saw in keeping empty bottles and cans.

A friend of Hilal’s connected him to a collector, Alberto Moroni, in Italy, who was planning to visit Dubai a few weeks after they were introduced. When he visited Hilal’s city, they exchanged a few cans. Moroni is known to be one of the biggest collectors of Coca-Cola memorabilia in the country and suddenly Hilal realised the importance of his collection. The interest from Moroni made him see his collection in a different light.

“My wife and I had a long, animated, chat one day. I was adamant that I had to continue with the passion while she thought it was of little use,” Hilal recalls of the tussle in his home.

‘Share a Coke’ collection

The summer of 2018 was amazing for Hilal. Like many other countries, Coca-Cola India launched the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. For Hilal, it was a Herculean task to collect all the PET bottles and cans. Over two dozen messages in 12 languages were written on cans and bottles, and nearly all of them are with him now.

That hardly quenched his thirst, as he wanted more. As the collection grows, he wants to add one-litre glass bottles across all brands, though it is a challenge for him to keep all the pieces at home. Once the collection gets bigger, he wants to move it to another location so that they can be on display for others to see.

“I will find someone from India who is doing something similar. I will also discuss it among friends,” he says, with hope.

Passion becomes the ‘profession’

For the last few years, Hilal has been juggling his passion with work. He wanted to put together a collection of memorabilia from India. “Being an Indian, I wanted to work on this specifically. When I searched about it, I found that there was hardly anything happening around this here,” he recalls. Now, he has quit his job as a finance professional and is focused on developing his collection.

Globally, Coca-Cola products have a thriving community of collectors. Special edition bottles and cans are considered prized possessions among collectors, and fetch a steep premium in the market. The rarer the product, the higher the price it can fetch. For example, during FIFA World Cup 2018, Coca-Cola brought out special edition products and they were grabbed by collectors in no time.

Hilal is connected to some of them and their passion has given him an idea on what he can achieve by following his.

He is still to convince many of his friends and dear ones about the viability of his collection, but Hilal has always kept his chin up. 

“I wish to develop a museum someday in India. That is the ultimate aim,” the grin on his face says it all. Perhaps that will be a worthwhile recognition of his passion.