Coca-Cola acquired Thums Up back in 1993 from Ramesh Chauhan’s Parle, along with Limca, Citra, Gold Spot and Maaza.
Homegrown soft drink brand Thums Up has become billion dollar brand in India, the owner of the brand, The Coca-Cola Company, said while reporting its October-December 2021 earnings. “Our local thumbs up brand became a billion dollar brand in India, driven by focus marketing and execution plans,” James Quincey, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company said on an earnings call.
Coca-Cola acquired Thums Up, which continues to be the most popular cola brand in India, back in 1993 from Ramesh Chauhan’s Parle along with Limca, Citra, Gold Spot and Maaza for $60 million.
Coca-Cola, which reported 17 percent growth in net revenue for the fourth quarter of 2021, said its unit case volume increased 11 percent in the Asia Pacific market, which includes India.
“Growth was driven by China, India and the Philippines, partially offset by pressure in Australia due to the impact of the pandemic,” it said.
In the Indian market, the company saw 30 percent sequential growth in transactions for the quarter on the back of its initiatives in India to build an omnichannel presence and marketing campaigns around key occasions by leveraging festivals and passion points, through occasion-led marketing and integrated execution.
Thums Up’s history
The brand, first created by Parle in 1977 to fill a vacuum in India’s fizz drinks market, saw a dramatic rise in popularity.
When the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) was passed in 1974, requiring foreign companies to reduce their ownership stake in Indian operations, Coca Cola (which has been in India since the 1950s) exited the Indian market also after it was asked to reveal its formula.
It was this vacuum that Ramesh Chauhan leveraged to launch Thums Up taking on existing brands like Campa Cola and Double Seven. Backed by strong distribution, Thums Up became the top fizzy drink brand in India.
When Coke re-entered India in 1993, Thums Up had market share of around 85 percent. Coke now faced two massive competitors, Thums Up and Pepsi. In a bid to take on Pepsi, it bought Thums Up, along with other brands from Parle Bisleri in 1993. At the time Parle held 60 percent share in India’s soft drinks market.
“Inheriting these brands, plus their franchise system and distribution infrastructure, gave us market leadership on day one. It gave us a profitable business to build on. The 55 bottlers in the Parle system would continue to bottle the brands they were already selling and have the opportunity to produce Coca-Cola brands,” former Coca-Cola India CEO Jay Raja said in a 2013 company post on Coke’s history in India.
He added in the post that consumer studies revealed Thums Up was preferred, by far, over its primary competitor (Pepsi), which meant it had a loyal consumer base that would not switch, and that Coca-Cola couldn’t afford to overlook Thums Up to promote Coke.
According to reports, the initial plan was to discontinue the brands Coke bought from Parle including Thums Up, but soon realised that this would threaten its market share, giving Pepsi a stronger hold.
“One major advantage we had was that a generation of young Indians was drinking Thums Up, which has a very unique taste profile and strong brand personality. With Thums Up in our stable, we could launch a two-pronged strategy against our competitor. We positioned Coke as an aspirational, international brand, and continued to market Thums Up as a national revered icon,” Raja added.
Cut to now, Thums Up continues to be the most popular cola brand in the country. Since the 1980s, it has been marketed under the iconic tagline ‘Taste The Thunder’, and between 2012 and 2016, under the tag line 'Aaj Kuch Toofani Karte Hai'.
(Edited by : Sandeep Singh)