Ruchika Jha

Svami's Vanilla Cola hits shelves through nostalgia-driven Superkicks collab

Aneesh Bhasin, co-founder, Svami, explains context behind the partnership, upcoming initiatives, and more.

Svami, the Indian mixers and non-alcoholic beverage company, has introduced Vanilla Cola, in collaboration with India’s streetwear and sneaker retail store - Superkicks. The idea was to create something that was a little nostalgia-driven.

The five-year-old company, pitting itself against industry behemoths such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Sprite, is earning acclaim among consumers while growing its physical presence in the country.

In a conversation with afaqs!, Aneesh Bhasin, co-founder, Svami, delves into the story and thought behind the collaboration, its distribution strategies, future partnerships, and more.

Talking about the idea behind the collaboration, Bhasin says, “It is a very unusual combination of a sneaker and a beverage company. The Superkicks team and a lot of us at Svami are sneakerheads and also into streetwear. So, I think it is always fun to collaborate with like-minded brands. In the sneaker world, many similar collaborations have taken place in the past where a sneaker brand has teamed up with Coke or any other beverage giant.”

He also mentioned that the distribution strategy of Vanilla Cola is kept simple. The idea is that both brands should benefit in some ways apart from the noise it generates. As of now, the beverage will be available at Superkicks’ stores in Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai, at Svami’s website and Amazon. The reason behind choosing Amazon is because of its feasible delivery with the ‘Amazon Prime’ feature.

"Our offline sales are more predominant in metro cities but online sales are pretty much across the country."

The Bihar and Gujarat markets are places where alcohol is strictly prohibited. Bhasin says that Svami drinks are available in Gujarat’s petrol pumps. “So Gujarat for us, as a market, is great because we have a decent range of products that can be had by itself, for example, Gingerial Colas and Lemonades. Therefore, those markets remain and products like these get demand from there,” he asserts.

Soft drink brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, 7UP, Sprite, and Thums Up, among others, have a significant reach among Indian consumers and are available at the front of supermarkets. Recently, Coca-Cola India forayed into the domestic alcohol market for the first time, introducing Lemon-Dou, its global alcoholic ready-to-drink beverage.

Collaborations are a big theme for lots of new-age brands.

Amidst this contending landscape where large drink labels dominate markets with consistently amplified consumer engagement, what is Svami's perspective on its own positioning?

“I do not think brands are built just by throwing money. It is about fostering communities and partnerships and establishing your brand with people.”

Bhasin's assertion resonates with the ongoing dynamic shift in the Indian beverage market. “We were the first homegrown premium brand in the country. Before us, there was only Schweppes. Over the last six months, it has become active in India. It is also launching gin and tonic in a can. Coke is entering the alcohol space in India as well.”

Collaborations as a new-age brand theme

Discussing the rationale behind aligning with a sneaker brand, Bhasin articulates Svami's broad approach to collaborations, irrespective of the company's scale. From partnering with an international brand like Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) to teaming up with a hyperlocal entity like Superkicks, Svami embraces diverse collaborations.

"We are glued into this (streetwear) space," he elaborates. "The streetwear category is on the rise in the country. So it's a very relevant field for us and we always wanted to partner. Collaborations are a big theme for lots of new-age brands."

The fact that the Singapore Tourism Board approached us to co-create a product with them shows how everyone is recognising the importance of collaborations.

Concerning the social media and overall media strategy of the brand, Bhasin says, “I think our plans have been very simple. It has just been leveraging our social media platforms. One cool thing is when people generally like a product, they post about it and I think we have got a lot of that going for us. So we do not invest in media spends for these things. It is mostly organic.”

Savmi's next out-of-the-box collaboration is with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). The beverage company will be launching a Singapore-inspired product ahead of Christmas and New Year named Pandan Tonic.

Svami's Vanilla Cola hits shelves through nostalgia-driven Superkicks collab

Bhasin says this tie-up demonstrates the "importance of collaborations". This year, the STB has been expanding its influence in India and is more invested in being media savvy and promoting the brand extensively on various mediums. Recently, it was named as the official destination partner at Nykaaland to promote the culture in the country.

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