Indian business circles went abuzz on 24 November 2022 over news reports that the Tata Group had finalized a Rs 7,000-crore deal to buy out the market leader in the packaged water business, Bisleri International.
Bisleri chairman Ramesh Chauhan, while confirming that he was in talks with several players, including Tata Consumer Products Ltd (TCPL), to divest some of his stake in the packaged water business, denied that any deal had been struck yet.
The Economic Times had earlier reported that the Tata company had finalized a deal to acquire Bisleri, India’s largest packaged water company, for an estimated Rs 6,000-7,000 crore. The current management would continue for two years as part of the deal, the report said.
When asked if he was selling his Bisleri Business, the 82-year-old Chauhan said, “Yes. We are,” adding he was in talks with other players as well, a PTI report said. When he was asked why he wanted to sell Bisleri, he said someone had to handle it as his daughter Jayanti was not interested in the business.
A Bisleri International spokesperson later said in a statement: “We are currently in discussion and cannot disclose further.”
The Tata Group already has a bottled water product with the brand name Himalayan.
The Tata Group in a statement said, “TCPL evaluates various strategic opportunities for growth and expansion of the business of the company, on an ongoing basis. TCPL remains in discussions with various parties, including Bisleri International Private Limited.” It did not give any more details.
The Chauhan family used to be a major player in the soft drinks market with brands such as Thumbs Up, Gold Spot, Citra, Maaza, and Limca, which they later sold to Coca-Cola in 1993.
Bisleri was an Italian company created by Felice Bisleri, which ventured into the Indian market from Mumbai in 1965 with the packaged drinking water brand. In 1969, the Chauhans acquired the company for Rs 4 lakh, media reports said.
Other major competitors in the packaged water space are Coca-Cola (Kinley), Pepsico (Aquafina), Kingfisher, Nestle, and even Rail Neer, sold by Indian Railways in trains and at railway stations.