The Tale Behind Thums Up

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In 1976, Indira Gandhi called for elections and all other parties united against Congress and named their union – Janta Party. Janta Party came into the power in 1977 and insisted Coca-Cola that either they should accept the foreign exchange act or leave the country. It is also alleged that George Fernandes, the then Indian Minister for Industries forced Coca-Cola to reveal the secret formula which made Coca-Cola exit Indian market. On the other hand, Pepsi agreed with the government and started the joint venture with Punjab Agro Industrial Corporation and Voltas India Ltd and started the business as “Lehar Pepsi”. However, Coca-Cola’s exit created a huge vacuum which was filled by a news player – Ramesh Chauhan of Parle!


Ramesh Chauhan was very well aware of the Indian taste and Thums Up was crafted keeping Indian customers in the mind. The product was immensely famous and the game was on. While Pepsi was busy advertising using Celebrities, Thums Up played on sponsorships. Bottle sizes were also increased to 250 ml which helped to gain switchers who were favoring Campa-Cola earlier. Thums Up ads shown middle-class Indian man who won’t settle for anything but Thums Up!


But the story didn’t go as the fairy tale. The red giant entered India in 1993 and the war began. Coca-Cola never thought of Thums Up as its rival and started head to head competition with Pepsi. Coca-Cola expected a grand welcome by Indian Customers. However Indian customers had no memory of the brand Coca-Cola since 1977. When Coca-Cola was celebrating shape of its bottle and Pepsi was busy in celebrity and cricketer engagement, Thums Up introduced a new factor which attracted the youth like anything – Adventure!

Coca-cola had three options – grow organically, acquire bottlers or acquire the whole company. Coca-Cola chose the second option of poaching bottlers by offering them irresistible benefits. Parle had 62 bottlers across India out of which only 4 were owned by them while the rest were owned by franchisees. Due to lucrative offers by Coca-Cola, the majority of the bottlers changed the side and was becoming very tough for Ramesh Chauhan to meet the demand. Finally, Ramesh Chauhan decided to surrender in front of Coca-Cola. During the signing of the contract, Ramesh Chauhan turned emotional & cried incessantly. Although there was no official announcement regarding the amount of the deal, it is rumored that Chauhan was paid $60 million. This deal offered two biggest advantages to Coke, first – they got the widespread network of Thums Up and second, there was no competition! Coca-Cola was clearly the big boy in the house.

All over the world, Coca-Cola has focused only on global brands and for India, they followed the same strategy. On the very first day, Gold Spot (An orange drink acquired from Parle) was killed to pave the way for Fanta. Coca-Cola’s then India head tried to explain his US boss that Indians were addicted to Thums Up but he decided to shelve the brand Thums Up.


1996 was the year which turned the table. It was a year of Cricket World Cup. Pepsi’s aggressive marketing and Thums Up’s absence made Pepsi the king of Indian Cola market. Coca-Cola had realized about the blunder they made and decided to revive Thums Up. Thums Up’s bungee jumping ad with the tagline – “I want my Thunder” became the instant hit among the youth. Earlier positioned as the refreshing drink with the tagline “Happy Days are here again”, Thums Up was now repositioned as an aggressive product which gives permanent place to a word – Thunder/Toofan in all the marketing campaigns.

Thums Up signed Sushmita Sen and Salman Khan in a campaign called “Grow up to Thums Up” which tried to portray Pepsi as a drink for kids and Thums Up as a strong drink for adults.

Over the time, Thums Up kept on changing its brand ambassadors – Salaman Khan, Akshay Kumar, and Ranveer Singh. Recently, Coca-Cola launched first ever variant of Thums Up named “Thums Up Charged”. Thums Up has strategically created different ads to cater different geographical segments – Ranbeer Singh for the north and Mahesh Babu for the south.


Now, Coca-Cola is planning to take brand Thums Up outside India. They also rolled out an Ad paying tribute to the man who created the Thunder in a bottle – Ramesh Chauhan. Yes, it is the same company which forced Ramesh Chauhan to sell his beloved brands, did everything to kill those brands and now rolling ad in honor of the creator of the brand! They also met Ramesh Chauhan to seek his blessings before launching it in the overseas market.

However, there are certain challenges for Coca-Cola in introducing Thums Up outside India. First, it will be hard for them to persuade customers about the presence of second Cola drink. They might be wondered about the introduction of a same kind of drink. The second risk is brand cannibalization. If Thums Up will be successful, there are high chances that it might affect Coca-Cola’s brand image and business. However, only the customers can decide the fortune of this venture.


Recently, one other creator of a very famous brand – Kapil Mohan, the man who turned Old Monk into a cult brand, passed away. One fan created the below ad and it was the most viral ad paying tribute to Kapil Mohan and showing the relationship between Old Monk and Thums Up. Fame of this fake (fan-made) ad shows the love that customers showers on their beloved brands!

The moral of the whole story is – However big your company is and whatever market share you are enjoying, there is only one King – the Customer!


This tale has been published by Chintankumar Mehta !!!

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