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Pepsi on Sale in India Again After 28 Years

From Associated Press

Pepsi-Cola went on sale in India for the first time in 28 years today after a bitter five-year battle to sell the U.S. soft drink in the tightly controlled Indian market.

Pepsi, Seven-Up and Mirinda, an orange soda, hit the market in Jaipur, capital of the western state of Rajasthan, said Christopher Sinclair, president of Pepsi-Cola International.

In the coming weeks, the drinks will be sold throughout the country, he said.

As part of an agreement with the Indian government to “Indianize” the soft drinks, they will carry the prefix Lehar, meaning “wave” in Hindi.

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To sweeten the pot, Sinclair also promised that the company would invest $1 billion over 10 years in bottlers, distributors and other small businesses in India.

He also released a copy of a letter written to U.S. Trade Representative Carla Anderson Hills in which he urged the U.S. government not to take action against India for alleged unfair trading practices.

The compromises are expected to pay off, say analysts, who believe Pepsi is poised to dominate the market.

India’s $350-million-a-year soft-drink industry is controlled by three domestic soda kings, but industry analysts say there is room for growth. Indians consume an average of only three bottles of soft drinks a year, compared to 13 in neighboring Pakistan, 38 in Thailand and 550 in the United States.

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Pepsi’s position is enhanced by the absence of its principal foe, Coca-Cola. In March, the Indian government turned down a Coke proposal to build a $3-million plant.

Indians were cut off from U.S. soft drinks in 1977 when Coca-Cola was forced to leave because it would not agree to a law restricting foreign ownership of an enterprise to 40%. Pepsi left India in 1962 because of slow sales.


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