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Asia's richest man to relaunch iconic 1970s Indian soda that once rivaled Coca-Cola

Asia's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has announced plans to relaunch an iconic 1970s soda brand that once rivalled Coca-Cola and Pepsi, prompting a wave of nostalgia on social media among the millions of Indians who grew up drinking the beverage. (Gurinder Osan/AP) Asia's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has announced plans to relaunch an iconic 1970s soda brand that once rivalled Coca-Cola and Pepsi, prompting a wave of nostalgia on social media among the millions of Indians who grew up drinking the beverage. (Gurinder Osan/AP)
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Asia's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has announced plans to relaunch an iconic 1970s soda brand that once rivalled Coca-Cola and Pepsi, prompting a wave of nostalgia on social media among the millions of Indians who grew up drinking the beverage.

Ambani's Reliance Group said this week it would reintroduce Campa Cola to India's multibillion-dollar non-alcoholic drinks market this summer in three flavours: cola, lemon, and orange, CNN affiliate CNN News-18 reported.

The brand filled a void in the South Asian country at a time when its more famous American rival Coca-Cola was not available, and the news of its return has prompted a flurry of interest from middle-aged Indians who remember drinking it in their youth.

Shailesh Desai, 60, from Mumbai, told CNN he remembered how drinking Campa Cola "would drown the apprehension" when he needed to tell his father about a bad grade on his report card, and provide a boost of confidence when he wanted to ask a girl on a date.

Sukant Khurana wrote on Twitter that he could remember pestering his grandfather to buy him the drink.

"So many childhood memories ... If it tastes anything like it did, Campa Cola will sell on nostalgia," he wrote.

Meanwhile Atul Mohan tweeted that "some brands remain timeless ... people still ask, 'will you drink Campa?'"

While Coca-Cola was introduced in India in the 1950s it withdrew from the market just over two decades later when the Indian government introduced a regulation that would have required it to reveal its formula.

In its absence, the Indian alternative Campa Cola became immensely popular and soon grew to lead the country's soft drink market.

Like its American rival its popularity was fuelled by catchy advertising campaigns that appealed to Indian youth. Bollywood actor Salman Khan appeared in one of its more famous television campaigns while its print advertisements were known for their pop-art illustrations and bold colours.

It also had a punchy tag line, with a hint of an appeal to patriotism: "The Great Indian Taste."

However, its popularity began to fizzle during the 1990s when India's then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh opened the country to foreign investment.

Foreign cola brands made a comeback, with Coca-Cola returning in 1993 and Pepsi and Fanta also becoming popular. Campa Cola gradually disappeared from stalls and shelves across the country.

With its new acquisition, Reliance appears to be hoping to appeal both to those Indians nostalgic for the brand and to introduce the cola to a younger crowd who might not remember its previous incarnation.

"By presenting Campa in its new avatar, we hope to inspire consumers across generations to embrace this truly iconic brand and trigger a new excitement in the beverage segment," a company spokesperson said, according to CNN News-18.

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