100-year-old Artos in expansion mode

Adduri Jagannadha Varma at Artos cool drink manufacturing unit at Ramachandrapuram in East Godavari district.  

The 50 plus-year-old Adduri Jagannadha Varma shares an emotional bondage with the century-old Artos cool drink brand he is associated with as a managing partner. He is proud of resisting multi-national products and negotiating deals with entities such as Walmart and Reliance for bigger business.

Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Jagannadha Varma said, “This family business of ours is a matter of pride for us. Exciting thing is that our fourth generation is jumping to take charge to expand the business in a big way.”

Established in 1919 by Adduri Ramachandra Raju and Adduri Jagannadha Raju, Artos is said to be the first aerated soft drink in Andhra Pradesh. Historically, the product can be identified with the clan of drinks such as Kalimark’s Spencer’s in Chennai, Winsent in Madurai, Dukes in Mumbai and a couple of other brands in Delhi and Gujarat which are present in the market for about a century or more. Artos is scheduled to celebrate its centenary event by the end of next year.

In its hay days, the company had 26 brands which were reduced to mere five owing to market conditions and traditional family constraints. “There were also attempts by those MNC brands which wanted us to take their agency and kill our brand. We resisted it,” said Mr. Varma.

The company is planning to resume a couple of old brands like Jeera, Gingir, besides the existing grape, Prince, lemon, orange and soda. The network of business is limited to East Godavari, West Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts presently.

Surprisingly, the demand for the local drink shot up when there were reports of pesticide residues in popular soft drinks according to Seetaramaiah, a local vendor in Ravulapalem near here.

The cool drink brand, which was limited to glass bottles till 2015, has started the supply of the beverage in pet bottle. The company is supplying pet bottles to Walmart and it has just inked a deal with Reliance for supply shortly, according to Mr. Varma.

This apart, the plans on expansion into other districts and States are on a brisk pace. “My son, who is working as a software professional in the US, is keen on the family business. We are readying a 36-acre of our own land here for expansion of the manufacturing facility,” Mr. Varma said.

At present, the company’s revenue stands at around Rs. 50 crore and the idea is to double the capacity and revenues in three to five years, according to him.

Challenging times

The beginning was not so smooth for the company which began with a soda machine procured from the British. Initially, people avoided the drink as it was seen as a ‘devil’s bottle’. Its consumption by the British soldiers made it popular during World War-II.

World War-II was another challenge for the company as there was an abrupt freeze on imports of drink essence. “We made our own essences and never stopped the flow even in the most challenging times,” Mr. Varma said.