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India’s richest man is trying to beat his rivals—by taking “inspiration” from them

REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
Eyes on the prize.
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India’s richest man appears to be truly “inspired” to beat rivals.

Less than a year after Mukesh Ambani’s tech firm Jio Platforms came close to getting sued for copying the user interface of American videotelephony app Zoom for its own video calling app JioMeet, the billionaire’s retail venture is now selling instant noodles and colas in packaging that is identical to the leaders in those segments.

Snac Tac Masala Instant Noodles is one of the several products that Ambani’s Reliance Retail has launched as part of its private label. Snac Tac’s yellow colour packaging with a red logo and noodle bowl looks almost the same as Nestle’s wildly popular Maggi.

REUTERS/Niharika Kulkarni
RIL’s instant noodles being placed next to Nestle’s Maggi.

And the bottles of Reliance’s colas brand Yeah! look nearly the same as those of Coca-Cola or Pepsi.

REUTERS/Niharika Kulkarni
RIL’s Yeah! Cola being placed under the popular cola brands.

The private label strategy is important for Ambani’s Reliance Retail as it can help the company earn higher margins as compared to what it would earn by just selling items of other manufacturers. To promote these private label items, they are being stacked right next to their identical popular rivals at Reliance Retail’s chain of over 10,000 standalone stores, supermarkets, wholesale cash-and-carry outlets, and speciality shops, according to a report by Reuters on March 22. As per the report:

Products like Snac tac noodles and Yeah! colas are Reliance’s private label brands – and billionaire Ambani’s not-so-secret weapons as he sets his sights on dominating a grocery market … Inside Reliance’s supermarkets, Nestle’s Maggi “2-Minute noodles” sit next to Snac tac “Ready in 2 mins” noodles, both in yellow-coloured packaging with an image of a red bowl full of noodles, with Snac tac costing roughly 18% less. Bottles of Yeah! colas stood beside Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s offerings, at around half the price.

Experts aren’t surprised with this stunt.

“Every branded offering aspires to take a commodity like rice or coffee and make a brand of it,” said branding expert Harish Bijoor. “As marketing economies climb the hierarchy of branded consumption, the new categories they create from scratch themselves become the category. Instant coffee, dehydrated noodles, and condensed milk are classic examples. Companies like Reliance can therefore launch their own labels in each of these categories, and still rule.”

While Nestle India, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo did not offer comments for Reuters’ report, Indian consumers are not being kind.

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