Rasna is one brand no 80s kid will forget. Back in the days of Doordarshan, advertisements were limited, and even the little that was broadcast was never targeted at kids. However, all that changed when children were greeted with the memorable I Love You, Rasna jingle. Rasna entered the Indian market at a time when carbonated drinks like Limca and Thumps Up dominated the Indian market. But neither drink was specifically for children. Hence, Rasna became the ubiquitous drink served at home and large gatherings from the late ‘70s to the early ‘90s.
In its over two decade history, Rasna has had its fair share of ups and downs. At one point, the brand was the most visible drink advertised on television. But today it faces stiff competition from cola majors like Coca-Cola and fruit juices such as Tropicana.
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Rasna was initially launched by the Khambattas as ‘Jaffe’ and distributed regionally in Gujarat. It was later relaunched as Rasna in 1979, distributed by Voltas, who additionally began marketing it in 1983. Having joined Rasna Pvt. Ltd. at the age of 18, with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, another in Law and several management certifications from Wharton and IIM, Piruz Khambatta became the Chairman and Managing Director of the company in 1998.
The ‘I Love You, Rasna’ campaign was targeted at both children and parents and highlighted how 32 glasses could be made from one pack. This became the brand’s key value proposition. Adding to that, the brand had introduced a plethora of flavours to choose from. These included Kesar, Elaichi, Khu and Jaljeera, which were both unusual and relatable to the Indian audience. In 2000, new flavours such as Guava, Litchi, Watermelon and Pineapple were added to the brand. So no matter what your child loved, Rasna had them all. It commanded over 85 percent of the fragmented Rs 600 crore soft drink concentrates market.
Also, by letting consumers add sugar to the powder concentrate, Rasna saved 60 percent of the cost spent by other flavoured drinks!
By the late ‘80s, Rasna had cornered over a 50 percent value share (and 75 percent volume share) in non-aerated drinks. Mostly popular in southern and western states, the volume share was over 90 percent in 2004 and over 97 percent in 2010, before settling at 93 percent in 2014.
But the market for concentrates had not increased at an enviable pace. While the soft drinks market had grown from Rs 13 crore in 1982 to Rs 14,000 crore in 2015, Rasna made up only 2.4 percent of it.
The real trouble for Rasna began when carbonated drinks and fruit juices flooded the market and became all the more affordable. Take-home bottles and tetra-packs made it easier for consumers to avail them. Aerated drinks such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola had heavy marketing budgets with campaigns and collaborations that went viral. These were factors that Rasna could not compete with. By 2002, Rasna faced competition from Coca-Cola’s Sunfill (withdrawn in 2004) and Cadbury-Kraft’s Tang, which is still its major competitor.
One of India’s iconic drink brands, Rasna has created a niche market for itself in the last three decades. Amid competition from major aerated international drinks, Ransa has maintained its reputation and posed a threat to many of its competitors. The brand has a current market share in the soft drink concentrate market of close to 80 percent, followed by the Mondelez India-marketed Tang.
Rasna gave the lower-middle class person who could not afford a carbonated drink the option of having something similar and even healthy at a price that did not drain their pocket. The brand has gone ahead and introduced sachets priced at Rs 5, thus entering the lower strata of their consumer base. As a part of its next strategic move, it aims to expand its rural distribution with this pricing in mind.
Consistent product innovation is the only way in which the brands from this category can continue to create excitement year after year. Given the plethora of options available to today’s consumer, this job will only get more challenging with time.
With the beverages industry flagging in the natural carbonated drinks category, Rasna seeks to capitalise on the current market trend towards non-aerated, fruit juice and healthy drink products.
Hence, the brand is banking on prompting its new variant Fruit Plus – a drink supplemented with vitamins and endorsed by Akshay Kumar.
The brand has come miles since its simple beginnings and is a source of nostalgia for many. No doubt Rasna will continue to make memories for a long time.