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India’s fizzy drinks moguls go one more round

Is 75 too old to still be driven by sibling rivalry? Don’t tell Ramesh Chauhan. The Indian king of carbonated drinks who only last year said that he was happy to have moved into bottled water has decided to launch a new fizzy energy drink called called Urzza, which means energy in Hindi. Why? Could it be because his brother Prakash just did the same?

The Chauhan family tale is a convoluted one. The family firm Parle Products was founded in 1929 and was most famous for its biscuits until 1977. That was the year that a new government bizarrely demanded that Coca-Cola hand over its secret formula to them.

When Coca-Cola refused, and left the Indian market, it left a gap and Ramesh and Prakash launched a cola called Thums Up. This was so popular that Coke bought it in 1993, when it came back to India. Thums Up is still the country’s best-selling fizzy drink. (India is the only market where Coke sells two colas.)

The business caused some tensions in the family, however. The difficulty arose because the family firm Parle Products, which was founded in 1929, was split into three in 1984 — Parle Products, Parle Agro and Parle Bisleri — each run by a different branch of the family. Court cases over the use of the Parle name caused bad blood.

Clearly the competitive spirit is strong for the brothers, and the soft drinks sector offers good opportunities. Last year Prakash launched a canned coffee drink called Cafe Cuba. Will consumers prefer Ramesh’s concoction or Parakesh’s?

Perhaps the battle is more important than the victory. Let the pop wars begin.

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