Coca Cola India Thirst

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Coca Cola Indias Thirst for the Rural Market

Misan E. Valdeviezo Dino Lou Franco S. Espiritu

In early 2002, Coca-Cola India (CCI) launched a new advertisement campaign featuring leading bollywood actor Aamir Khan. The advertisement with the tag line - 'Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola was targeted at rural and semi-urban consumers. According to company sources, the idea was to position Coca-Cola as a generic brand for cold drinks. The campaign was launched to support CCI's rural marketing initiatives. CCI began focusing on the rural market in the early 2000s in order to increase volumes. This decision was not surprising, given the huge size of the untapped rural market in India.

With flat sales in the urban areas, it was clear that CCI would have to shift its focus to the rural market. Nantoo Banerjee, spokeswoman - CCI, said, "The real market in India is in the rural areas. If you can crack it, there is tremendous potential. However, the poor rural infrastructure and consumption habits that are very different from those of urban people were two major obstacles to cracking the rural market for CCI. Because of the erratic power supply most grocers in rural areas did not stock cold drinks. Also, people in rural areas had a preference for traditional cold beverages such as 'lassi' and lemon juice. Further, the price of the beverage was also a major factor for the rural consumer.

IndiaIndia has 450 districts and approximately 6, 30,000 villages. These villages can be sorted on the basis of different parameters like income levels, literacy levels, penetration, accessibility and distance from the nearest town. In August 2002, around 700 million people, approximately 70% of the Indian population was engaged in agricultural activity, contributing 1/3rd of the country's GNP. Apart from the fact that the rural population is very large, it has also grown richer since the 1990s, with substantial improvements in incomes and spending power. This was a direct result of very high crop yields due to successive good monsoons. Tax exemptions for agricultural income have also contributed to greater rural purchasing power.

Background of the CaseThe case focuses on the rural marketing initiatives undertaken by the cola major - Coca Cola in India. The case discusses in detail the changes brought about by Coca Cola in distribution, pricing and advertising to make inroads into rural India. The case also discusses the concept of rural marketing and its characteristics in a developing country like India. Further, it also provides details about PepsiCo's rural marketing initiatives.

COCA COLACoca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines internationally. The Coca-Cola Company claims that the beverage is sold in more than 200 countries and it is often referred to simply as Coke (a registered trademark of The Coca-Cola Company in the United States since March 27, 1944). Originally intended as patent medicine when it was invented in the late 19th century by John Pemberton, Coca-Cola was bought out by businessman Asa Griggs Candler.

Statement of the ProblemWould Coca Cola India be able to take success further in rural and semi-urban areas?

Major Obstacle FacedPrice of the product Inclination to traditional drinks like Lassi, Nimbu pani Storage facility Lack of awareness Rural infrastructure &buying habit Strong competition

SWOT ANALYSISSTRENGTHS Robust brand value. Strong advertisement campaign. Strong supply chain & distribution network Price cut Production capacity Customizing of product Good promotional strategy WEAKNESSES High price than competitors. Less volume at same price. High distribution cost Less profitability Lack of infrastructure High advertisement cost




Huge untapped market Increasing income & purchasing capacity. Rapid rate of urbanization. Brand awareness

Rural infrastructure Consumption habit Erratic power cut Choice of traditional drink Strong competitor Pesticides Issue

CCIS Rural Marketing StrategyCCIs rural marketing strategy was based on three As Availability, Affordability and Acceptability. The first A Availability emphasized on the availability of the product to the customer. The second A - Affordability focused on product pricing. The third A- Acceptability focused on convincing the customer to buy the product.

AvailabilityCapacity expansion 25 production lines and doubled bottle capacity. Unique and different distribution strategy hub & spoke distribution. Coverage of 158,342 villages by Aug. 2003 (81,383 in 2001). 200,000 refrigerators to rural retailers.


Introduction of 200ml bottle (Chota coke). Priced at Rs. 5, closed the gap between Coke and basic refreshments.


Mass media marketing. Launched TVCs targeted at rural consumers.


Product Portfolio of CCI


CCI launched 200ml bottles (Chota Coke) The company had added 25 production lines and doubled its glass and PET bottle capacity. Plans to launch beverages such as nimbu paani (lemon juice), fruit juice, cold coffee, and ice tea in collaboration with Nestle India.


CCI launched 200ml bottles (Chota Coke) priced at Rs. 5 The 200ml bottles priced at Rs. 5 would also make CCI competitive against local brands in the unorganized sector. CCI faced stiff competition with some sates local brand, like in Rajasthan & Gujarat local brands such as CHOICE & TIKLI offers drinks at cheaper price. Amidst the stiff competition CCI tried to focus on brand value of their product to capture market.

Place or Distribution

Developing distribution system the company utilized auto rickshaws and cycles. Company used large trucks for transporting stock from bottling plants to hubs and medium commercial vehicles transported the stock from the hubs to spokes. Large distributors (Hubs) and also (Spokes) were appointed.


Bottle Plant






Extensive marketing in the mass media as well as through outdoor advertising. CCI put up hoardings in villages and painted the name Coca Cola on the compounds of the residences in the villages. Participated in the weekly mandies by setting up temporary retail outlets and took part in the annual haats and fairs major sources of business activity and entertainment in rural India. Commercials showed progression in associating Coke with Thanda in a rural/semi urban context.

PromotionAd 1 - Tapori connection of coke with thanda was made. Ad 2 - Hyderabadi shopkeeper shopkeepers equates he word thanda with Coca-Cola. Ad 3 - Punjabi farmer when one asks for thanda, would get coke. Extensive television commercials (TVCs). Celebrity advertisement to lure the customers. Print advertisement in regional news paper.

RecommendationsDistributing new product as free in celebrations and fairs. Focusing on the new preferences Establishing local TV channel to promote products Doing social actions like support extending education, and granting scholarship. Changing mind of senior people Holding magic shows to promote products