Remember Thums Up, the cola curiously missing the “b”? Well, it’s not for lack of intelligence, people. This company knows wassup. They “b” going strong. Ready to get schooled on how this mega cola is still killing it in India? Time for a Lil history!
How It All Started
Thums Up was created in 1977. When the American company Coca-Cola withdrew from India, two brothers, Ramesh and Prakash Chauhan, joined up with Bhanu Vakil to introduce the soft drink.
The Chauhan brothers owned part of the Parle Company (yup, that Parle of Parle-G biscuits!) and already had two other brands of soda, Limca and Gold Spot, which were popular in India at the time. Thums Up quickly became the most popular and had almost a complete monopoly among cola products in India during the 1980s.
The brothers developed the formula from scratch, experimenting with ingredients such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. The company also wanted the drink to be fizzy, even when it was not ice-cold, so it could be sold by vendors.
After much testing and experimentation, the Chauhan brothers and their research team created a cola that was fizzier and spicier than Coca-Cola. They originally planned to name the drink “Thumbs Up,” but removed the “b” to make the name more unique.
How Competition Fizzled
Starting in 1990, Pepsi became a big competitor for Thums Up when it joined the market in India. The two competed for several years, and Thums Up created a larger, 300-milliliter bottle size called MahaCola to improve their popularity.
Then, in 1993, Coca-Cola joined the market and the three companies competed intensely. Later in the year, Coca-Cola bought the Parle Company for $60 million. When Parle was sold to Coca-Cola, Thums Up had about 85 percent of the market in India.
In Coca-Cola’s first few years of owning Thums Up, they decreased advertising for the drink in hopes that more customers would buy Coke instead. When they realized they were losing popularity among teenagers and young adults because more people preferred Pepsi to Coke, they began to increase advertising for Thums Up to compete with Pepsi. Thums Up still had about a third of the market share.
As Coca-Cola increased advertising for Thums Up, they focused on targeting middle-aged people more than young adults. They established the soft drink as a stronger and more powerful beverage than Coke or Pepsi. The “Grow Up to Thums Up” campaign portrayed Thums Up as a drink for adults, and Coca-Cola hoped this image would increase sales among young adults. After this campaign Thums Up gained a large percentage of the market.
Thums Up Today
Thums Up is pretty much India’s national drink, not counting chai of course. The brand has sponsored numerous cricket matches. It has big Bollywood endorsements and ambassadors. Hell, it even made a cameo in the popular Julia Roberts film, “Eat, Pray, Love.”
It’s the leading cola in India, with 42 percent of the cola market share and 15 percent of the market share for all carbonated drinks. It is especially popular among teenagers, young adults, and people in their 30s and 40s. The soft drink was even ranked among India’s top trusted brands in the Brand Trust Report 2012, 2013, and 2014.