In more than four decades of its existence, powder-based soft drink brand Rasna, which has now achieved a near iconic status, has taken on several challenges heads-on. Be it competition from multinational soft drinks brands Pepsi and Coca Cola or homegrown sharbat brands such as Roohafza, it hasn't been an easy journey from the brand that is known for its iconic advertisement 'I love you Rasnaâ.
After liberalisation in 1991, the brand that made a special appeal to kids, faced intense competition from the likes of Pepsi and Coke as they had an edge in the marketing game. By the late â90s Rasna had already started losing its sheen.
All of these players tried to eat into Rasna's category âpowder-based soft drinks, a segment synonymous with Rasna in India.
In an interview with BestMediaInfo.com, Piruz Khambatta, Chairman and Managing Director at Rasna, talked about the 42-year-long journey of Rasna. âWhile other companies came and perished, the reverse happened in our case. We defined the market and still are the market leaders,â Khambatta said.
âTropicana powder, Fanta, Sunfill, all have been launched; Pepsi and Coke tried launching powder, and didnât succeed,â he said.
Khambatta feels that innovative product ranges and frugality have been the USP of the 42-year-old brand and that's the reason Rasna survived the onslaught of global brands.
Khambatta said that the new generation is now seeing brand Rasna with a revived interest.
People want to go back to the roots, they want natural products. They are not interested in just marketing stories, they want good products, said Khambatta.
The brand that enjoys more than 90% market share in the non-aerated soft drinks segment, now feels the competition is the entire non-alcoholic beverage market.
âThere is nobody as such in the powder market. Our main competition is from drinks, not powder. People see those drinks as synthetic. We are giving a better promise of being natural, without preservatives. People would find it healthier. Taste is also now moving to more ethnic,â said Khambatta.
To reduce its dependence on the Indian market, Rasna is also expanding its global footprints.
âWe have a very strong presence in the Middle-East followed by Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. We have certain honey products for USA and Australia, too,â he added.
The reinvention of Rasna
The brand is now focusing more on natural drinks and serving the market throughout the year with separate offerings for summer and winter months.
The brand has introduced a new product line âRasna Native Haatâ that comes with a one-line promise to consumers to âgo back to natureâ and has Saina Nehwal as the brand ambassador. The company has announced the launch of Rasna Native Haat Honey Vita and Badam Vita Powder and Honey, along with Aam Panna and Shikanji.
âThere is a requirement of no preservatives, no colour and no flavour. People want very natural stuff, they want to go back to the roots. They want to have products like Aam Panna and Shikanji. They are not interested in just marketing stories, they want good products. So time has gone when you have a celebrity endorsing a brand, and people buying it. We have launched these products that have no preservatives or chemicals and called it Rasna Native Haat because we have to distinguish it,â said Khambatta.
âSince winter is coming, we are launching hot beverages. It has less sugar, goodness of honey with chocolate. We also have launched honey, and the uniqueness is, we are directly working with the farmers and that way we are helping the farmers,â Khambatta said.
Rasna is supporting its renewed brand push with a marketing budget of Rs 40 crore a year.
The brand is also planning to use content marketing and social media to effectively reach the younger consumer base.
âWe considered content marketing two years back where we made a three-minute commercial on Rasna, where people can relate Rasna to their childhood. We have made internet-related ads. Now also, like any other companies, we are engaging in social media, festivals. In fact, in the upcoming movie Zero, thereâs a dialogue in which Shah Rukh Khan mentions Rasna,â he added.
Khambatta said that marketing a health drink required a completely different approach from selling a soft drink.
He added that Indian companies have an edge over multinational players as the former understand the local beverage market and consumer interests better.
âWe are a very consumer-centric and technology-driven company and we believe the success of Indian companies in food lies in the fact that we are closer to the customer than the multinationals. Rasna is a company run and owned by technocrats. So we know what the customers want. We always have made innovative products,â he said.