Recently, the brand “Thums Up” became a billion dollar brand. The historic journey of the brand, makes for interesting reading. Prior to 1973, the Indian market for aerated drinks was prominently ruled by Coke. In 1973, amendment to the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) capped foreign equity at 40%. All companies with more than 40% foreign equity had to obtain a fresh approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to continue their operations. During this term, George Fernandes, a radical trade unionist and socialist, was the Industry Minister in 1977. He asked Coke to comply with government policies which required Non-Indian companies to disclose their formula and divest 60% of their shareholdings. Coke agreed to divest however, it refused to disclose its formula, contending that it was a trade secret. It preferred to exit the country.
The disappearance of Coke left a hole in the market. This led to the birth of “Thums Up” which was introduced by Parle Bisleri Pvt. Ltd. Thums Up quickly became the most popular cola soft drink in India during the ‘80s.
In the early ‘90s, Coke and Pepsi were allowed to re-enter the Indian market. Initially, Pepsi competed with Thums Up. Coke joined the fray in 1993. In a bid to take on Pepsi, Coke bought Thums Up, along with the other brands of aerated waters from Parle. By this time, Thums Up had captured almost 85 percent of the Indian cola market.
For the first few years of owning Thums Up, Coke tried to suppress advertising and marketing for this brand with the hope that customers would switch to Coke but this did not happen. When Coke experienced a drop in sales and found that Coke was losing market share and popularity among teenagers and young adults, it began to increase advertising for the brand Thums Up. Initially, Coke focused on targeting middle-aged customers rather than young adults. Subsequently, Thums Up was positioned as a stronger and more powerful beverage than Coke. The “Grow Up to Thums Up” campaign symbolizes this. Coke hoped this image would increase sales among young adults. The campaign was successful and Thums Up gained a large market share.
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The original Thums Up logo was a bright red “thumbs up”. The refurbished logo has blue speed lines and an unfettered “thums up” image. Coke sponsored cricket and Thums Up was prominently featured during many cricket matches. Thums Up also starred in the book and film, “Eat, Pray, Love.”
Today, arguably Thums Up is the leading cola brand in India, with 42 percent market share. It is especially popular among teenagers, young adults, and people in their 30s and 40s. The soft drink was ranked among India’s top trusted brands in the Brand Trust Report 2012, 2013, and 2014. And now Thums Up has become a Billion Dollar Brand! Thumbs Up to Thums Up!


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