Campa, Coke, Pepsi, politics—cola wars and Indian capitalism. Now … – ThePrint

PastForward is a deep research offering from ThePrint on issues from India’s modern history that continue to guide the present and determine the future. As William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Indians are now hungrier and curiouser to know what brought us to key issues of the day. Here is the link to the previous editions of PastForward on Indian history, Green Revolution, 1962 India-China war, J&K accession, caste census and Pokhran nuclear tests.
The cola wars are nasty everywhere, but in India, “it’s genuine Mario Puzo,” declared Ramesh Vangal, the man who brought back Pepsi to India, in 1992.
Except this time, the war wasn’t with its biggest rival Coca-Cola. It was actually with an array of formidable homegrown soft drinks like Campa Cola, Thums Up, Double Seven, Limca — and despite active lobbying favouring Indian brands, conspiracy theories, and anxieties over health concerns, Pepsi made its mark in India.
Now, the cola wars are going to get more aggressive with India’s biggest business baron Mukesh Ambani’s entry. In early March 2023, Reliance relaunched Campa Cola that it acquired late last year.
After three decades of dangal between two American cola brands, India is set to see a new round of old cola wars – desi vs videshi.
There was a time when American colas were looked at with suspicion.
Slogans like “We want computer chips, not potato chips!” rang through Parliament. Vangal, Pepsi Food Ltd.’s managing director, said Pepsi’s first application to reenter India in 1985 was rejected in two months. George Fernandes, who famously threw Coke out of the country in 1977, issued an ultimatum to Pepsi in 1985: the same fate awaits you as Coca-Cola, he said. “I made the point that 90 per cent of India’s villages did not have safe drinking water whereas Coke had reached every village…Do we really need Coke? Do we really need Pepsi?” he remarked to the New York Times. 
But the fizz didn’t go flat.
Pepsi entered the Indian market triumphantly, buoyed by the Punjab public sector unit Punjab Agro and guided by the central government. Then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi even created a new ministry for food processing to help it happen.
Even Atal Bihar Vajpayee — who was against the nationalisation of coal, steel, foodgrains — was on board, calling for the “Indianisation” of Coke, writes Rahul Ramagundam in The Life and Times of George Fernandes. The BJP leader and former PM said he had been drinking coke for more than two decades, and his bones hadn’t weakened yet.
This is the story of India’s cola wars. It’s always been a potent mix of politics, nationalism, predatory market policies and good old conspiracy theories. It started in the 1950s, and didn’t end with Pepsi and Coke re-entering the market in the 90s. The wars were fought on the battlefield of advertising, telecast on a ‘liberalised’ India’s television sets.
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As with everything, the cola war story also begins in a newly independent India, waking up to endless possibilities.
The government was tasked with setting up a system from scratch, and the abiding symbols that came to be associated with this project were carefully chosen. In that India, international — and especially Western — products such as Coke and Pepsi, which were seen as American symbols, were viewed with some suspicion.
Indian manufacturers like Parle stepped in to solve this perception issue when they entered the market in early 1950s. However, India’s relationship with soft drinks went decades before with Roger’s laying the claim to fame for the oldest existing brand, having been established in 1837. The likes of Pallonji’s in 1865, Ardeshir’s in 1884, Duke’s in 1889 and other regional brands had already formed significant parts of pre-independence India’s nascent soft drinks landscape until the American-made Pepsi and Coca-Cola came into the picture.
Coca-Cola first entered the Indian market in 1950 — two years later, to counter them, Parle introduced the popular Goldspot in 1952. In 1962, a fledgling Pepsi left the Indian market, unable to keep up with Coke and Parle.
The Indian government was fiercely protective of local industries and businesses — so it wasn’t Parle that was dragged to Parliament. It was Coke in the ‘interest of India and Indians’. It’s another thing that in four decades time, the politics around Coke would lose its fizz a bit and it will be Indian icons—from Aishwarya Rai to Aamir Khan—endorsing the American food and beverage giant for people who lived on sharbat.
Coca-Cola was part of a miniscule fraction of the national economy, so why such noise in the corridors of power?
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When Coca-Cola export representative Frank Harrold came to Bombay in the 1950s, he had an “overwhelming desire” to lock himself away in the Taj Mahal and “shut away all the misery” he saw in the city.
He describes what he saw: “A seething, boiling mass of humanity striving to survive from one day to the next.” The next day itself — with no sense of irony — he describes the grand “perfectly gorgeous” Coca-Cola plant in the middle of five acres of grounds.
At a party with Hindi film celebrities of the time, Harrold was awed by the glamour and how close the industry felt to the brand Coca-Cola, noting that actors felt “a part of the family”.
Away from the glamour in five-star dining halls was the background noise — the politics of putting Indians under a frenzy of a ‘foreign drink’. From a single plant in 1958, Coca- Cola grew into a 22-bottler behemoth in 16 years. A section of Indian politicians, the Left particularly, began seeing red — apart from the bottles — everywhere.
For these leaders, Coca-Cola was the ultimate symbol of Americanism — and its influential lobby in India posed a threat. On 9 February 1974, Coca-Cola threw a lunch party at Delhi’s Oberoi Intercontinental for politicians and members of the press, who were each gifted a transistor after the sumptuous meal. Its bottlers were the elite families — President VV Giri’s son-in-law ran a unit in Madurai.
The CPI launched tirades against the Congress government and Swatantra Party in Parliament. West Bengal MP Jyotirmoy Basu mentioned in Parliament that he had written letters to the Union Health Minister inquiring about the phosphoric acid and caffeine content in Coke. The letter passed several hands — to no response. “I do not know if anyone in the health ministry is a friend of Coca-Cola. But I can tell you definitely that somebody is eating a pie of Coca-Cola,” said Basu in March 1974, accusing the Indira Gandhi government of suppressing a 1967 report by Hyderabad-based Nutrition Research Laboratories (now National Institute of Nutrition) that listed its side effects in children.
And Basu had a smoking gun to work with. In 1968, India was facing a sugar shortage. The agriculture ministry, headed by Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, gave a handsome quota to Coca-Cola even though the company argued it didn’t need any sugar for its concentrates. The government granted ad hoc licences worth Rs 16 lakh, said Basu in Parliament, adding that Coca Cola India was making a profit (after tax) of 1600 per cent, while in the US, the figure was a mere 23 per cent.
The government had also amended the Food Products Order in 1968 under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act 1955 — which mandated a drink to have at least 10 per cent fruit juice — to suit Coca-Cola and cover synthetic drinks. Instead of synthetic, Coke bottles now proudly sported the FPO label. In Jamshedpur, the proprietor of a Coca-Cola plant made such a huge profit — of Rs 60,000 — that he died of a heart attack.
All the argumentation, as Congress MP B.V. Naik said, made Parliament the best “advertising agency” for Coca-Cola, who must’ve been “laughing in their sleeves”.
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And then Indira Gandhi imposed two things that changed Indian industry: the Emergency, and the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. And the fear of all things foreign became deeper in the Indian psyche.
The Emergency paved the way for the newly elected Morarji Desai government that seized the chance to reinstate what it meant to beIndian”.  His government was fiercely protective of Indian industries in 1977, it began to use FERA to actively limit foreign ownership in Indian subsidiaries.
And then George Fernandes sent “shudders down the spine of India’s industrial establishment.” He went after the two biggest symbols of American capitalism: Coca-Cola, and IBM.
Citing Sanjay Gandhi who had said, “Let the public sector die a natural death,” Fernandes said: The people who held this view themselves died a natural death in so far as the public life of this country is concerned.
As the Lok Sabha debated priorities, Fernandes’ myrmidons submitted a secret document to Basu that contained information on the Coca-Cola Company’s operations in India.
“I have no second thoughts,” Fernandes declared on the question of Coke leaving the country. “Our policy toward multinationals is uniform. “They must abide by the law of the land if they want to be in business here.”
The announcement was cheered in the Lok Sabha. Fernandes demanded Coca-Cola to divulge the formula of its concentrate — he knew that the company would prefer to fold, force bottlers to shut down, and dismiss workers. He also said that government chemists have perfected a formula similar to Coke — Double Seven — which could reabsorb the workers dismissed by them.
And that’s exactly what happened in 1977. Coca-Cola was forced to leave India, and Indian companies like Parle and Pure Drinks (a government initiative from 1950) rushed to fill the gap. Double Seven was the Indian government’s peace offering to the Indian cola consumer. Manufactured by Modern Food Industries, run by the government, the soft drink was launched at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan.
But throwing Coca-Cola out was already “bad publicity”. It made the international community suspicious of the Janata Party: Fernandes, the industries minister, began visiting the world capitals inviting investments. Former West Bengal Governor and industrialist Viren Shah wrote to Fernandes, “As you are keen to invite foreign capital to India, it may be desirable to brief our missions, particularly in the US and Canada about the facts and policy on Coca-Cola. I understand there are two ex-Coca Cola persons in the Centre’s cabinet.”
Whether the government thought people needed cola or not, India became fertile ground for cola companies: the weather, the high population, the blossoming television and film industry were all attractive draws. By the 90s, the average Indian drank three soft drinks a year — while the average American drank 385, the average Pakistan 14, and the average Bangladeshi 7.
Parle and Pure Drinks were fighting it out for market share in the 1980s. And now that Coke was gone, it gave Pepsi a chance to put its foot in the door—in the second coming.
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It was a time when India was changing. Way before Manmohan Singh and economic reforms of 1991. Rajiv Gandhi had liberalised imports and heralded India’s telecom and computer revolution. He represented India’s Camelot moment.
And Pepsi and politics went hand-in-hand in India. Rajiv Gandhi became an advocate of Pepsi’s re-entry into India, though never too directly. He created an enabling climate for its entry. But he was still unable to control the outdated public debate in India about American companies and colas. It was the quintessential swadesi versus videshi fight. And much of the Indian media was entrenched in this too. On one side was the good Indian business, represented by Parle’s Ramesh Chauhan. On the other, was the evil western corporation.
So he roped in a ministry and a public sector company – the ultimate holy cow of the opinion makers.
It was the perfect constellation of stars, according to PR guru Rajiv Desai. “We effectively rode the first wave that transformed India,” said Desai, the man behind the campaign for Pepsi’s reentry. “And then it became easier in the Indian market – we could get up and say consumerism is good for Indians, and not get slammed or called anti national.”
Pepsi’s reentry into the Indian market was conditional on the company diversifying itself into not only producing soft drinks but also food items by inking a joint venture deal with Punjab Agro Industrial Corporation (PAIC) and Voltas. Pepsi took a 39.9 per cent share in a conglomerate that the three set up, called Pepsi Food Private Limited. This was historic in India: an international company tied up with a public sector company to revolutionise the Indian market.
And this happened after years of lobbying. Or — to go by Desai’s version of events — it took years of beating back the aggressive Indian lobby led by Parle’s Chauhan.
“The reason Pepsi was successful in India was because it was clear to us that the government wasn’t the roadblock, but domestic manufacturers were,” said Desai, whose company was retained by Pepsi as a public affairs consultancy. It was his company, IPAN’s, first big account.
The fight was dirty. Pepsi was up against decades of social conditioning against Western products. It was also up against an extremely active lobby that would plant a story there, leak something else here. Desai, who used to be based in Chicago, said that they were at an initial disadvantage with the Indian media, which was always tipped off by the local Indian lobby to plant stories against them.
Chauhan was extremely clued in, according to Desai. Handwritten notes spreading rumours allegedly used to be given to journalists, detailing how Pepsi had destroyed crops in places like Latin America. Every time the Pepsi proposal was scheduled to come up in Parliament, Chauhan’s sources in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry would tell him. And the day before every meeting in Parliament, the newspapers would be full of ads and stories on how Pepsi was bad. It wasn’t just Pepsi that Chauhan was batting against. He mounted a similar attack on Coca-Cola too with the same force. He just didn’t want ‘evil’ American corporations coming and edging out Indian brands.
Politicians would tell journalists that India had robust local brands and that there was no need for foreign brands in this sector. They would also say that foreign companies should be allowed in only if they bring technology that India needed sorely.
And so Pepsi had to think out of the box.
Rajiv Gandhi was young, modern, and keen on opening up the market to international goods. While other politicians questioned the need for introducing soft drinks when there was so much else to focus on, Gandhi saw the vibrancy that Western products could offer the Indian market. Plus, by that point, Indians were used to soda: they were already smuggling in spurious bottles of Coke and Pepsi from across the border in Pakistan.
One of the PR tricks Desai employed included pointing this out: Pepsi held a press meet and displayed a basket full of spurious products manufactured under unhygienic conditions. Their point, he said, was that of basic consumerism: if people don’t like Pepsi’s products, they won’t buy it. But at least give them the choice to consume it.
They also did things like organise local events, including a huge cricket match at the Veer Bhagat Singh Stadium in Mumbai: between retired cricket players, both Indian and international. “And we demonstrated that this is the kind of stuff Pepsi can do. We set up the Pepsi Cup, and then Sachin Tendulkar later came on board too,” said Desai. “We wanted to show that Pepsi can create a market, and that it generates employment.”
“Ultimately, what is lobbying compared to giant billboards and cricket matches?” he asked.
The FERA, deployed liberally by Fernandes, had limited foreign equity to 40 per cent. Pepsi knew they would need allies to freely operate in India. And they turned to the state for help.
Pepsi first knocked on the doors of Calcutta-based Duncan Agro Industries Corporation to seek government approval to do business in India. However, the deal fell through and the government withheld approval.
Pepsi tried again, and this is where Punjab Agro, led by senior bureaucrat Gokul Pattnaik, came in. The alliance with Voltas and Punjab Agro was set up in 1988, and the tie-up massively boosted the economy and employment in Punjab, but also changed the kinds of food available to the Indian public. The deal was that along with its soft drinks, Pepsi, 7Up and Mirinda, PepsiCo should also set up food processing plants, franchise bottling operations, and snack-food factories using local ingredients. These snacks — Lays and Cheetos with Indian seasoning — then began to line grocery stores.
In hindsight, tying up with a PSU turned out to be what many today call a master stroke. It blunted a lot of criticism. PepsiCo began talking to the Indian media about tomato farmers of Punjab, contract-farming and even how this could be the second phase of Green Revolution. Farmers’ organisations like Shetkari Sangathan and Bharatiya Kisan Union were in support of PepsiCo — after all, the company needed 600 tonnes of tomatoes a day to manufacture ketchup and other products. After a decade of just procuring chillies and tomatoes, PepsiCo began to procure potatoes from Punjab’s farmers too.
While this unfolded, the local lobby continued to fight back against Pepsi. Pepsi adopted the tag line “Pepsi is good for India:” an all-encompassing slogan that promised “world class technology, marketing, products, and sponsorship,” according to Desai.
And then the 80s ended with a stage set for Manmohan Singh’s 1991 Budget speech, which would liberalise India. In 1990, Pepsi officially entered the Indian market. But not before one last big bang.
Pepsi had planned to call its flagship drink Pepsi Era. But the local lobby resisted it under a law that forbids foreign names for Indian products, and the VP Singh-led government mandated Pepsi to change its name in the summer of 1990. But the labelled bottles were ready, and so they had to be smashed and destroyed.
The renaming of the drink and designing a new logo in record time was a nightmarish experience for the marketing team. But that was necessary to signal to Indian consumers that Pepsi felt Indian.
The new flagship product was called Lehar Pepsi, adding the Hindi word for the wave in the logo. It cost more than $1 million at the time to manufacture new bottles with the new name. And after it hit the shelves on 23 May 1990, India was officially riding the Pepsi wave.
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The very first Lehar Pepsi advertisement was a significant event in the summer of 1990. The ad, which aired on Doordarshan, featured singer Remo Fernandes, actor Juhi Chawla, and the tagline “Are you ready for the magic?”. It ended with the words: “The choice of a new generation”.

The “cola wars” were fought on multiple fronts, not limited to production and distribution but also in promotion and marketing, especially when Coca-Cola’s 1977 exit saw a slew of Indian firms vying for lucrative deals with the prominent ad agencies, celebrities and directors of the day.
Among these were Parle, who had signed with Rekha to endorse the Gold Spot fizzy orange drink in the early 1970s and Jayant Kripalani to promote its lemon-lime soda brand Limca. Parle’s Chauhan gave Pepsi a good fight in the campaign wars – before he capitulated and sold the brands to Coca-Cola in 1993.
Also featured in the 80s were Pure Drinks, who had signed up with the agency Chaitra and prolific advertising filmmaker Kailash Surendranath in the early 1980s to create an iconic Campa Cola ad that launched the career of Salman Khan in 1982, who had previously never done any modelling or acting work. Surendranath recalls the project as particularly noteworthy, due to the underwater filming that required expensive equipment to be used, with the Andamans as the shoot location, which was inspired by the 1980 Hollywood film The Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields.
What also stands out from the Campa ad and the aforementioned Limca and Goldspot ads, is the dominance of the English language in presentation and Western popular culture as the source of creative inspiration in this era, a far cry from the more Indianised Pepsi and Coca-Cola ads of the 1990s. The focus was on great visuals and voiceovers with proper diction, making the style of the ads quite Western, according to Surendranath.
The 1980s also featured other now defunct Indian brands vying for relevance alongside Pure Drinks’ Campa and Parle’s Thums Up, with McDowell’s bringing in Thril and Sprint, apart from Double Seven. While these brands made sizeable impacts, their bids for soft drinks’ supremacy were relatively short lived with their lasting legacies steeped in nostalgia.
Meanwhile, the leadup to economic liberalisation in 1991 saw the cola wars being re-ignited with American flavour due to the return of Pepsi, under the leadership of Ramesh Vangal, nearly 30 years since its initial departure from the Indian market.
“In that era, media (advertising) was so simple in India that to create a roadblock, all that was needed was to take out an ad in the newspaper which said ‘The choice of a new generation, 8PM before Chitrahaar‘ and that was enough,” recalls Anuja Chauhan, who in 1993 had begun her career at J Walter Thompson (JWT), the ad agency working with Pepsi
The reach of the Lehar Pepsi ad was immense but the route to get there was far from plain sailing, according to Rohit Chawla, a photographer and a veteran of the advertising industry who worked closely with PepsiCo’s then India head Ramesh Vangal in the leadup to the launch. Being an American firm entering a soon-to-be liberalised market 15 years after an American rival’s unceremonious departure, Pepsi had to walk on eggshells all the time.
“Most of our efforts were basically avoiding any bad press. There was a lot of scrutiny we faced due to being an American firm, a lot of song and dance with the AGRO food industry. I remember going to Patiala and shooting films on the benefits Pepsi would bring to the food industry.” Chawla told ThePrint.
As a result, the nature of “advertising”, that Pepsi commissioned JWT to produce ahead of the launch, also involved the type of corporate announcements that are now the norm in the age of CSR, says Mukul Bakshi, who was a copywriter for JWT in his early twenties at the time.
Riding the “magic” wave, Pepsi had capitalised on first mover advantage in the first half of the 1990s but once the far bigger budgeted Coca Cola came into the picture and outbid Pepsi as the official sponsors for the 1996 Cricket World Cup held in the subcontinent, the company and JWT needed to rethink its strategy.
The solution for Pepsi and JWT as a result was to reposition themselves both internally and externally as the underdog in India, just as it historically had been around the world, carrying through that siege mentality in every aspect of their marketing. In Bakshi’s words, the two firms together turned a negative situation into positives.
After some brainstorming, this underdog’s face turned out to be “Nothing offical about it”, the ad campaign that not only poked fun at Pepsi’s failure to secure sponsorship for the World Cup but also cashed in on the firm’s pre-existing relationships with iconic cricketers of the day like Sachin Tendulkar or Mohammad Azharuddin to walk a fine line and re-create the feel of being an official tournament product within the legal confines of that era.
“It was a cheeky campaign that won a lot of people over. People were very amused and charmed by the irreverence. It was considered very irreverent and everyone sympathises with the underdog. Such a public nosebleed was delivered and perhaps it stung pretty hard and earned Pepsi a lot of goodwill,” Chauhan said.
And it didn’t end with the television advertising or the tagline. As Bakshi remembers, the “guerrilla marketing tactics” put in place to ensure Pepsi fights Coca-Cola within the stadium as well, not just in print or television. Bakshi’s team came up with the idea of giving spectators free flyers for sixers and fours, all emblazoned with Pepsi logos. So whenever a boundary or a six was hit, the cameras picked up a sea of Pepsi logos.
Both the 1990 and 1996 Pepsi ad campaigns were broadcast in a similar anglicised Westernised mould that characterised the decade before it. But according to Rohit Chawla, it was the Coca-Cola’s Aamir Khan-starrer ad campaign that really changed the game towards more ‘desi’ content and gave Coke a “winning edge”, leading Pepsi to come out with “Yeh Dil Maange More“.
The sneak attack ads continued for long in India, just like it did around the world. Coca-Cola took out newspaper ads likening a Pepsi to a Gulab Jamun, a dig at how sweet it tasted.
Overall, however, Chawla considers the entirety of the cola wars at the time as an invention by both the media and ad agencies that simply attempted to “create hype around cool Western brands”.
The scales tipped further in Coca-Cola’s favour on the advertising front by the mid-2000s, according to Santosh Desai, who worked very briefly at PepsiCo before spending a decade at McCann, the ad agency that worked on Coca-Cola from the late ’90s.
“Coca-Cola had made a very weak entry and by the time we got the business, it was perking up but remained a distant number 2 to Pepsi both in terms of volume and brand recall,” Desai told ThePrint.
Explaining the ‘Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola’ campaign that the multinational did with Amir Khan, Desai said that their “most memorable work was with Coca-Cola’s attempt to penetrate smaller towns with smaller price points. We did a campaign featuring Aamir Khan in different avatars, a cultural archetype of a small-town hero with different regional portrayals.”
But the saturation had begun setting in years before that.
In a twist to the tale of foreign vs homegrown cola wars, Parle had sold to Coke in 1997. And by the time Coke’s ‘Thanda’ campaign blew up, Pepsi’s ad quality and relevance had begun to go “considerably downhill”.
“Pepsi became more driven centrally, a classic multi-national, from empowered to textbook with campaigns having no resonance in the country. They started following the youth rather than leading the youth,” said Santosh Desai.
But very soon afterwards both Pepsi and Coca Cola lost their centrality to the marketing discourse with their work becoming increasingly “peripheral”, losing air time to newer homegrown brands, according to Desai.
There were numerous factors for the decline, such as the two brands being considered synonymous with junk food, as well as natural evolution of which products are seen as engaging young people the most.
“Back in the day, it was detergents, then it became colas, then TVs and phones, now it’s startups. What engages youth and what excites them starts moving. A cola isn’t that different from a cup of tea now,” Desai said.
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Like the pre-liberalisation era, the second edition of “cola wars” also involved Indian politics, NGOs and public discourse. It wasn’t just a simple Pepsi vs. Coke battle.
In August 2003, the Sunita Narain-led Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released a report saying that Pepsi and Coca-Cola in India contained unacceptable amounts of pesticide residue, such as DDT. Even in Kerala’s Plachimada, Coca-Cola was in trouble over groundwater pollution.
And so the cola wars again gained political colour.
Health minister Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament that the pesticides were indeed found, but not to the levels that Narain’s report claimed. Opposition demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the issue.
The soft drink giants had announced swift criticisms of the claims made by the CSE report with internal data, to which CSE had termed at the time as seeking to “convolute, confuse and take the Indian public for a ride”.
Ads were often their most effective comeback against public anger. Coca-Cola had released a PSA-style ad with Aamir Khan, in which he walks viewers through the production processes and calls on them to visit Coca-Cola factories to observe these processes in person. On the other hand, Pepsi featured a Shah Rukh Khan ad that mocked the controversy by saying there is indeed something inside the soft drink — it’s great taste and that is why it’s not ‘safe’.

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The Pepsi campaign was revolutionary for public-private partnerships, the PR industry, and traditional business practices. And hundreds of products followed their blueprint.
“There was a perception that everything from the West tasted better. A tryst with liberalisation passed through a bottle of a sugary drink with an international name…but the psyche of the country has changed,” said Chawla.
“[Reliance’s relaunch of Campa Cola] is a good decision, a smart move at the right time. Indians have done well for themselves lately so indigenisation is more popular now. Reliance has deep pockets and can take on the challenge of a giant like Coca-Cola,” Chawla said, naming Paper Boat as an example of a newer successful indigenous drinks brand.
“It was a baptism by fire,” said Desai. “And my goodness, it was a really fabulous experience. There was lots of fun and lots of learning, and we made so many allies for life.”
He first agreed to go to battle in September 1987, when he ran into Ramesh Vangal at the Taj Mansingh in New Delhi. He told Vangal he was in India to launch his first professional PR consulting firm. Vangal looked at him and said, “Okay. Pepsi will be your first client.”
A little over two years later, Desai and Vangal were back at the Taj Mansingh. They’d called for a press conference with over two hundred journalists to make one announcement: Pepsi was officially re-entering India.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)
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