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Cola ban and after: Retailers  at the receiving end

The ban on Coke and Pepsi was quashed by the Kerala HC; however, it has not made any difference to the unavailability of colas in the state.

October 14 2006

Cola on the street: A rare sight in Kerala now.

Even after regaining lost fizz following the Kerala High Court order quashing the governmentís ban, cola majors are yet to sneak out of hiding in the state. Retailers in the state are in a state of fear ever since the Left- affiliated youth bodies went on a rampage when the ban order was lifted. The situation has since changed, the intensity of the protests seems to have dropped. However, it is hard to find Coke and Pepsi on retailersí racks even after days have passed since the rampage.

Pro-Left bodies had ransacked cola godowns in various parts of the state following the HC order. Cadres of the DYFI, the youth wing of the CPI(M), broke bottles of colas as a protest against the court ruling. The extend of the damage was so large that company trucks found it unadvisable to unload bottles of the carbonated drinks at any of the retail outlets.

Pepsi and Coke drinkers are now left wondering as to why the court order is not being adhered to. Retailers in the meantime are being ruled by a fear psychosis and are afraid to sell colas in such a situation. Even as the protests have died down, anti-cola organizations have resorted to spreading awareness on the ill effects of the carbonated soft drinks sparking an aversion to the sft drinks.

The cola companies on the other hand are left to play it safe by not insisting on sales again. They seem to be concerned more of the damage suffered by small retailers as many of them now see themselves passing through a dark tunnel. For most of them, retail selling used to bring in their bread. With their shops now non-existent, they are left to find other ways to eke out a livelihood.

On one side, the government is mulling over moving the Supreme Court against the HC order. On the other side, the cola companies are biding time before they make their next move. The saddest part of the story is that small retailers now donít know which way to choose. With the affluent class, who forms the majority of cola drinkers, choosing to bring in their favourite colas from neighbouring Chennai and Bangalore through their relatives in these cities, small sellers are left to rue over their decision to become retailers of the cola brands. No one now has the courage to decide when they would be able to stock up colas in their outlets. The wait is on.


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