The mom-and-pop stores have stopped selling them. So have other bigger chains. But a ban on aerated “foreign” cola drinks clamped by Tamil Nadu’s traders have not stopped many stores from still selling the preferred brands of a large section of the people – Coke and Pepsi.
In Beasant Nagar, an upmarket sea-side residential colony in south Chennai, Adyar Bakery is a popular and busy confectionary, coffee and soft drink shop – and always bustling with customers. The filter coffee machine is located outside the shop and adjacent to it is a cigarette kiosk – all part of the shop that also stocks Pepsi and Coke in company-provided refrigerators.
Responding to a call by the Federation of Tamil Nadu Traders’ Associations, thousands of commercial outlets across the state are boycotting cola products of PepsiCo and Coca Cola since Wednesday in a move that could cost the two soft drink giants an estimated Rs 1,400 crore in losses.
Late on Thursday evening, a senior worker said “the boycott was fifty-fifty”. But he was a trifle nervous and wanted no pictures taken of his shop or himself. He would not even reveal his name for.
Across the city, at the all-the-time-busy T Nagar, a commercial area, many shops are still stocking the “offending drinks” which are accused of depleting water from the state’s rivers and reservoirs.
It is another matter that Indian companies will also need as much water for the desi “soft drinks”
A roadside storekeeper said he was having no problem in getting supplies of Coke. “As long as people want and we are able to sell, we will continue,” he said.
At Walltax Road in Sowcarpet, thickly populated by Rajasthani and Gujarati trading communities, it is business as usual for the soft drink majors.
If the experience of Murugan of Murugan Snacks, a small kiosk selling soft drinks and snacks, is any indication, the cola majors have nothing to worry about.
“Firstly, they were very popular with the regulars to TASMAC liquor shops,” Murugan said, elaborating why he preferred to sell these MNC brands.
“The young ones come here, pick up a Pepsi and something to munch, along with their quota of the sprits that cheer. Coke and Pepsi are cheaper than local brands, and are available in different sizes, even smaller throwaway bottles. The lesser quantity, smaller ones are the more popular items,” Murugan said.
But this sentiment is not shared by everyone.
For some, like S Kumaran, who runs a big grocery store in a residential colony of Gandhi Nagar at Adyar in south Chennai, the boycott is a good thing.
“I have not ordered any fresh stock and these are the only few bottles left. I have also asked the companies (Coke and Pepsi) to take back their refrigerators,” he said. Already, he has planned what to do with the space he would get once the fridges were gone.
In neighboring Mylapore residential-cum-commercial area, nearly half the shopkeepers don’t want to stock the soft drinks of the cola majors. The big grocery store, Farida Stores, on Raghavachari street, will no longer give you a Pepsi.
Instead he has Bovonto, a local cola drink. Similarly, if you are in the locality that hosts the largest vegetable wholesale market – Koyambedu – many shops have put up signboards saying No to Pepsi and Coke.
S Kamesh, a class XII student, summed up the situation.
“It would be a tad difficult, but not impossible to get hold of a Pepsi if you are determined,” he said.
“We might have to go across to couple of shops, may have to go to a different colony. It is not as if Coke and Pepsi are completely gone.”
Then there are others who are against all aerated drinks.
“Tender coconut or fresh fruit juices are good for health,” said Radha Shekhar. “If the boycott leads to a rise in number of people taking to fruit juices, it would be a welcome development.”