Coke upbeat on India

06 May 2011

NEW DELHI: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is attempting to exploit the "immense" opportunities presented by India - a nation predicted to become one of the firm's top five markets in the near future.

Speaking in an interview with the Economic Times, Muhtar Kent, the organisation's chief executive reported an investment of $1.3bn in India was paying dividends.

"India is a focus market for The Coca-Cola Company and we have always believed in the Indian growth story," he said.

"Our brands today are the leading brands in each category and we have a unique mix of 'Made in India' and 'Made for India' products for the country."

"Four of the top five brands in India today belong to our portfolio."

The owner of Sprite and Fanta has enjoyed improving local demand for the last 19 quarters, and India is now among its ten largest outlets.

"The Indian market has tremendous growth potential and we are working with our bottling partners to leverage this growth," said Kent.

"Our system in India will continue to invest in technology, infrastructure, manufacturing and marketing.

"It should not surprise anyone if India becomes one of the top five markets for the company globally, in the next five years."

Currently, Coca-Cola's flagship brand lags behind Thums Up, which the US operator purchased in 1993, and Pepsi, but Kent suggested there was room for optimism where Coke is concerned.

"Our focus in India, as in the rest of the world, is on being a total beverage company that offers choice to consumers in the sparkling and still segments," he said.

"That said, we are also focused on growing brand Coca-Cola and we have seen a lot of success. In India, trademark Coca-Cola has grown faster than the overall sparkling business in 2010."

Given the rising competition across nearly all industries in India, Kent warned that only an extremely rigorous approach would be likely to deliver the desired results.

"The opportunity in the packaged beverage segment is immense and our efforts in India need to be directed at being the beverage of choice all day, every day," he said.

"We need to continue to do the right things each day and at all times."

Achieving such objectives requires combining the strengths provided by an international scale with implementing schemes appropriate to individual nations.

"One of the great advantages of The Coca-Cola Company is that we operate as a local company in 206 countries around the world, meaning we hire, produce, market, distribute and source most materials locally," Kent said.

"While each market is unique, we have a growth story to tell almost everywhere."

More broadly, Asia as a whole holds enormous promise for Coca-Cola, not least because several highly favourable forces are observable in the region.

"Asia is and will continue to remain a continent of great opportunity," said Kent.

"The sheer demographics-more than one-third of the world population resides in Asia-and the economic prowess of the continent make it a very potent force in the economic and social landscape of the world."

Coca-Cola's core areas of emphasis, both in this geography and elsewhere, are health and wellness, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, Kent added.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff