Writer Salman Rushdie dismissed it as a “disgusting local imitation”. But brand Campa Cola still thrives in the rural northern hinterlands, kept alive by franchisees.

Campa Cola was created by the Sardar Mohan Singh-founded Pure Drinks Group in the late 1970s when the MNC cola brand was forced to exit the country. For 20 years it ruled the Indian cola market, but soon after liberalisation it vanished from the shelves.

Even as the current owners of the brand, the grandsons of Sardar Mohan Singh, are said to have appointed consultants to value the Campa brand and assess the future course, the franchisees have kept the fizz going — also attempting a bubbly comeback over Facebook.

Alankar Bottling Private Ltd, a Muzaffarnagar-based company, produces 300 ml, 600 ml, 1 litre and 2 litre bottles (glass and PET) of the desi cola brand and is active on Facebook with a Campa Cola page that plugs the ‘Great Indian Taste'.

“We have the capacity to produce 500 bottles a minute,” says Mr Atul Agarwal, who owns the bottling company, a franchisee of Pure Drinks Group since 1979. Three variants of Campa — cola, lemon and orange — are available.

According to him, even as the Pure Drinks Group went low-key post-liberalisation — hit not only by the MNC colas' re-entry but also by succession feuds — his own unit as well as other franchisees in Bareilly, Panipat, Saharanpur and Jaipur continued making the cola.

“We primarily retailed the drink in Amritsar, Haldwani, and small kasbas (hamlets), but now you might find Campa Cola at the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station in Delhi as well,” says Mr Anshul Agarwal, his son.

The Singh family has been focussing more on its other businesses — construction, hotels and telecommunications — but have kept a cola concentrate factory in Noida going. “We have been getting the cola concentrate from them all along,” says Mr Atul Agarwal.

To ward off the MNC challenge, the Campa Cola bottlers have been following an aggressive differential pricing strategy. “But yeh to local brand hi ban ke reh gaya hai ,” rues Mr Agarwal.