Boycott Hurts Coke, Pepsi in India
By John Philip
April 9, 2003

TRIVANDRUM - A call for a boycott of American and British goods by an anti-war forum has led to the sales of Coca Cola and Pepsi plummeting in the southern Indian state of Kerala, distributors said.

The anti-war forum, headed by Thomas Isaac - a member of a communist party - and consisting of more than 250 non-governmental groups, has announced plans to convert Kerala into a "Coca Cola and Pepsi free zone" by April 13.

Members of the forum have been on "shop-to-shop" campaigns to persuade traders against stocking American products and are visiting homes in Kerala to argue that consumers not buy them. Other items on the boycott list include toothpaste, soap, cooking oil and cosmetics.

Distributors of Coca Cola and Pepsi said sales had dropped by about 50% since the call was made two weeks ago.

"We are no longer stocking these products. The campaign against these products by leftist organisations is very aggressive and a lot of customers are rejecting them," a distributor in the state capital of Trivandrum said on condition of anonymity.

"Our sales have been hit by more than 50% in the last one week. There has been very little demand for fresh stocks," said another distributor, who said he feared his Coca Cola license would be cancelled if he revealed his name.

He said shopkeepers feared a backlash from the activists if they sold the colas. "The boycott call seems to have frightened the retailers.

They feel that if Coca-Cola bottles are stocked in their shops after the deadline the left-wing outfits in Kerala may storm the shops causing huge losses," the distributor said.

Shop owners in the state capital Trivandrum said some customers were demanding substitute soft drinks.

"They have said that toothpastes should be replaced by the Indian herbal product. And if their children come to my shop and ask for a bottle of Coke I should give them locally bottled mango juice," said Haridas, a department store owner.

Shops in Trivandrum said stocks of both Coca Cola and Pepsi would run out in two days and they had not ordered more. Coca Cola said the boycott call would hurt the Indian economy.

"We have one million retail suppliers of our products here. In the event of a boycott, it is the Indian economy that will be hit," said Sunil Gupta, vice president of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages.

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