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Coca-Cola’s Challenger Mindset in India: Insights from John Murphy

Coke’s Position in India: A Challenger Brand

Even though Coca-Cola is the world’s largest beverage brand worth $ 106 billion, it is a challenger brand in India. This mindset was recently expressed by John Murphy, the Global President and CFO of Coca-Cola, during a consumer conference in Paris where he pointed out the distinctive features of the Indian market. For instance, India can be a good case in this point: today we speak about the opportunity in India, brand Coca-Cola is still a challenger brand in India and it is one of the most difficult tasks for the company, according to Murphy.

Competitive Landscape: Thums Up and Sprite Leading

In India, Coca-Cola has its major competitors in Thums Up and Sprite which have crossed the one billion dollar sales mark. Thumbs Up, bought from Ramesh Chauhan’s Parle in 1993, achieved this in 2021, because of its higher carbonation and taste suitable for a spicy palette of Indians. Sprite, the global lemon-flavored beverage of Coca-Cola, tasted the same success the next year with locally targeted, occasion-based campaigns.

Strategic Management of Trademark Coca-Cola

Trademark Coca-Cola has gone through many positioning shifts in India such as “thanda matlab,” “open happiness,” and “share a Coke.” Some of them like “thanda matlab” were developed uniquely for India, and others like “happiness” were adopted from the global theme. Murphy said, “In a place like India we have adopted that challenger attitude to unlock the opportunity that it (brand Coke) has and we are quite satisfied with the first steps we have taken.”

Financial Performance and Market Importance

The consolidated profit of Coca-Cola increased by 57% to ₹722 crore in the fiscal 2023 with the revenue from operation up by 45% at ₹4,521 crore. Murphy described India as one of the company’s ‘reliable markets in the last three or four years,’ further stressing its importance as one of the five priority markets in terms of volume growth.


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