From being a drink that was born out of India’s protectionist policies in the 1970s, Thums up has come a long way.
Thums Up, the iconic Indian cola, will be launched in foreign markets, says Coca Cola, the current owner of the brand. “We are all set to take Thums Up to other parts of South Asia possibly by March 2018,” Coca-Cola India and south west Asia president T. Krishnakumar said. The brand will then be launched in global markets.
It will be a somewhat ironic move for Thums Up, which was essentially the result of India’s protectionist policies in the 70s. Back then, the Indian government had instituted rigorous conditions on foreign companies to operate in India, including being required to sell 60% of their equity to a domestic company. Instead of accepting these terms, Coca Cola had then chosen to exit the country.
This could’ve meant that India’s population would’ve been deprived of the fizzy drinks that had become used to, but an Indian company had stepped up. Parle, which already operated Limca and Gold Spot, had then launched Thums Up as a replacement for Coca Cola. Thums Up was an instant hit, doing better than other domestic players, such as Campa Cola, and Double Seven, a government-owned alternative that was named after the year that Coca Cola had left the country. Within a few short years, Thums up had garnered a 35% share in the Indian soft drinks market.
Things came a full circle two decades later. When India opened up its economy in 1991, Coca Cola made a re-entry into India. Coca Cola, Pepsi, and Thums Up competed briefly for a while, but in 1993, Parle sold the Thums Up brand to the very company it had been formed to replace — Coca Cola. Coca Cola purchased Thums Up for $60 million, but wasn’t very keen on promoting the drink. It initially cut advertising for Thums up, and promoted Coca Cola instead, but realized that Thums Up loyalists could move to Pepsi instead. Coca Cola then decided to use Thums Up to rival Pepsi. The brand evolved into a more masculine persona, signing macho ambassadors like Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan, and had a memorable tagline of “Taste the thunder.”
Over the years, Thums Up not only managed to hold its own against both Coca Cola and Pepsi, but also managed to create a niche for itself. Now Coca Cola has decided that Thums Up deserves a bigger audience. It is likely to launch in South East Asian countries, and based on its success, could even move to global markets. In a strange twist of fate, it could end up competing against Coca Cola in its home market. For a brand that was created to fill Coca Cola’s void in India, to becoming a part of its global portfolio, Thums Up ‘s story has come full circle.