“Pepsi got here sooner, and got to India just as it wasstarting to engage with the West, and with Western products,”said Lalita Desai, a linguist at Kolkata’s Jadavpur Universitywho studies how English words enter Indian languages. “And withno real international competition, ‘Pepsi’ became this catch-allfor anything that was bottled, fizzy and from abroad.”
In much of the Hindi-speaking belt of northern India, hometo three of the five most populous states, children begging atstreet corners will point to bottled juices inside cars andplead for “Pepsi.” Mahipal Singh, a 42-year-old truck driverwho plies a route between New Delhi and Bihar, calls his reststops “Pepsi-wepsi” breaks, regardless of what he is drinking.
“Saying ‘Pepsi’ connotes getting a soft drink,” saidKiran Bhushi, an anthropologist at Indira Gandhi National OpenUniversity whose research is focused on consumption patterns ofIndia’s middle class and has consulted for both companies. “Howexactly does someone like Coke dislodge this idea from aconsumer’s brain?”