Previously, we had found out how Govt chased Coca Cola out of India, resulting in a huge void for Cola market and thousands of jobless workers:
While taking on Coca Cola at the political front (by raking up FERA & Indian Patents 1970 Act), The Union Minister for Industries, George Fernandes was secretly working on a plan to fill the void for Cola market, and provide jobs to the thousands of Coca Cola workers. His plan was to market a “Swadeshi” cola drink to replace Coca Cola, and he was in search of an Indian scientific lab which could develop the formula.
Whenever Govt faced such challenges, a CSIR Lab (under Central Govt) called CFTRI (Central Food Technological Research Institute at Mysore) would always come to the rescue.
In 1956, the Govt had asked CFTRI to develop the formula for making baby food from milk powder, which was then marketed by Amul (Dr Verghese Kurien) and the product was a resounding success.
Hence, it was logical for George Fernandes to approach CFTRI for this high-priority project. A high-profile team involving some of the top scientists was setup at CFTRI and over the next few weeks, the lab developed a cola alternative based on the following guidelines:
- It must taste like Coca Cola
- It must have minimal impact on health (i.e less caffeine)
It was tricky because reducing caffeine would deviate it from the Coca Cola taste, but the team at CFTRI managed to come up with the best compromise which tasted close to Coca Cola and had relatively lesser caffeine.
The Govt was satisfied with the result and the next challenge was to give it an appropriate name. A contest was held and after several weeks of scrutiny & intense brain storming sessions, the name “77” or “Double Seven” was chosen to signify the eventful year which according to the Janata Party witnessed “happy moments” like revocation of Emergency, defeat of Indira Gandhi, ouster of Coca Cola & launch of “Swadeshi” Cola.
The cola drink was launched by PM Morarji Desai amidst much fanfare during the annual trade fair at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, as a “gift to Indians”. It was marketed by the Govt company called “Modern Food Industries”, thus making it a “Truly Swadeshi” soft-drink (R&D, Manufacturing & Marketing were by Govt Labs/Companies), and in contrast to other Govt projects, huge money was spent on marketing it with tag-lines like “For the Good Times”, subtly suggesting that post-Emergency (revival of democracy) and non-Congress Govt at the centre were “Good Times” for India.
The Govt went on overdrive mode and soon launched a tingling lemon flavored drink under the same brand name.
Although the marketing was aggressive, public response was not upto the mark because those who were accustomed to Coca Cola (and it was this customer base which Double Seven was trying to target) found it no match to Coke. The general feedback was that although Double Seven tasted like Coca Cola, it was not as fizzy as Coca Cola and lacked that “magical/zing taste”.
In the meantime, after quitting India, Coca Cola started concentrating on Pakistan and to recover losses (due to lack of Indian market), the company started expanding aggressively in Pakistan.
There were even instances where Coca Cola helped middle-men to smuggle Coke from Pakistan to India, to satisfy its loyal customers who were “craving” for the drink and were ready to pay “thrice the price”.
Hence, within few months, the fizz out of Double Seven had diminished and the “crave” for Coca Cola could not be fulfilled by the Govt.
Would it be a good idea for the Govt to wind up Double Seven and invite Coca Cola again? Or would it be wiser to introduce another stronger variant of Double Seven with higher caffeine & fizz to match the “zing” of Coca Cola?
We shall find out about these in the next part tomorrow.
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