Homegrown brand Thums Up was launched in 1977. Nearly five decades after its launch, an acquisition by Coca-Cola Company in 1993 and many ‘Toofans’ later, it became the first home-grown billion dollar beverage brand. Storyboard18 spoke with Arnab Roy, vice president, marketing Coca-Cola India and South West Asia, about the next milestone for the brand. Roy says, "It will be an incremental billion dollars in the next three years."
Homegrown brand Thums Up is close to Indians' hearts in many ways. From a go-to drink with or after a heavy meal to the classic pairing of Old Monk and Thums Up on a rainy day, the brand has found a place in everyday occasions over the past 45 years.
Its strong fizz makes it a leading brand in the Coca-Cola Company’s portfolio, globally, and also one of the leading players in the aerated beverage market in the country.
Just a few months ago Thums Up became the first home-grown billion-dollar Indian beverage brand. James Quincey, CEO of Coca-Cola Company attributed this growth to focused marketing and execution plans for the brand in India.
But there is more opportunity for the brand to grow, feels Roy. He tells Storyboard18, “The overall penetration of the brand is still very small, if you look at India’s opportunity and size. We will have another incremental billion dollars in the next three years. If we have the right strategy then it is absolutely possible.”
Roy shares three things that are important to make it happen. “We need to continue to make it relevant with everyday culture. This is our largest brand. It needs to be an iconic brand with every generation. So obliviously how well we are able to keep it relevant with the culture is critical."
Second, he adds, is "how we are able to ensure that we build occasions around the brand. Which honestly we haven’t done a very good job of. I think it is seen as a powerful brand but how well do you make it relevant with everyday occasions? That is a big vertical we are working on."
Third, how can this brand innovate? "We recently launched our first super soda-Charge by Thums up. And we are excited by its potential. It is not a cola. As we start thinking how big Thums Up can become with the power of what the brand stands for, I think the opportunity is endless.”
As a part of keeping itself relevant to everyday culture, the brand recently unveiled the #HarHaathToofan campaign around the 75 years of India’s Independence.
The campaign features inspirational stories of athletes like former Indian national cricket team captain and current President – BCCI, Sourav Ganguly, who instilled self-belief and fearlessness in the Indian cricket team. It also has Avani Lekhara, first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Paralympics, firing her way to the top, despite losing her legs in an accident when she was 11 years old. And Nikhat Zareen, Indian Boxer and IBA Women’s World Boxing 2022 gold medalist, who became a world champion by showcasing great endurance and fortitude in a sport, which was traditionally considered masculine.
The new campaign is an extension of #PalatDe, which was initially unveiled last year during Thums Up’s worldwide partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. “This is part two of what we started off last year. We started with the Olympics and the idea of ‘Palat De’ started there. The response was outstanding both from brand equity and the impact on the business. So it was clear that we had to go back and activate this once again. We don’t think there was a better opportunity than the 75th year of India’s independence."
Besides a TV campaign, there is going to be a lot of activation, content development with people who are making an actual impact in India’s progress so far. "We are working with Sudarshan Patnaik, the famous sand sculptor in Orissa, and other amazing artists. We're also working with chess prodigy Praggnanandhaa. That is the power of the campaign. We have so many people around us who are making an impact and that is what is going to make the difference. It's an infinite number of stories,” says Roy.
But is the challenging economic environment impacting their plans?
“So far we have had a fantastic year,” says Roy. “One of our best Q2 ever. India is the fastest growing operating unit worldwide for the Coca Cola Company and Thums Up has played a big role in it. Are there challenges? Absolutely. After everything that has happened, Covid, what’s happened in Ukraine, the supply chain issues are not small. We were lucky that there was enough demand but on the flip side it was the highest out of stock percentage that we saw across all our brands. We have never seen such high out of stock numbers.”
Roy says that they will continue to be bullish on the India economic opportunity. The company believes that India will be one of the few markets that can ride through any possible recession that may happen in the West.
He does acknowledge that inflation is a challenge. “It is hitting us. But we will have to have a smart plan on the commercial side, working on revenue growth management on how we can still manage to overcome the challenges that inflation poses.”
"Thums Up is seen as a powerful brand but how well do you make it relevant with everyday occasions? That is a big vertical we are working on."
But, at the same time he is very clear that they have no plans to cut their marketing budget. “We will play with our pack mix instead,” says Roy. “When I say pack mix, it is very critical for us to ensure that we are able to offer affordable price points for our consumers. For Indian consumers, affordability is still critical. As we have a long way to go to recruit more consumers, I think this is going to be critical. We are trying to ensure that on the affordable packs, we are not making big price increases."
However, he adds that there could be opportunity to increase prices on certain packs and certain channels. "Therefore, how your pack mix allows you to overcome those inflation challenges is what all of us are working on everyday right now.”