The Turkish-born CEO of Coca Cola wrote a chapter in a new book about India. Here are some excerpts relevant to consumer marketers. Muhtar Kent had spent time in India as a boy.
Learning by listening, watching
“Even if you live and work [in India], you can never be entirely sure you understand. It is best to assume that you do not. If you come to India with some grand, predetermined strategy or master plan, prepare to be distracted, deterred, and even demoralized.”
Gunjan comment: In my 2008 book on Doing Business in 21st Century India, I describe a typical demoralized executive who told me that India is an abbreviation for I’ll Never Do It Again. Today his company is barely a force in India while peer companies from America have achieved success after success.
Top 5 market by 2020
“Today our India business is thriving. I am happy to report that India now ranks among our top ten markets in unit-case sales. Our growth in recent years has been particularly dynamic. I still see enormous potential in India—which is why last summer I went to New Delhi to announce that The Coca-Cola Company and its global bottling partners will invest $5 billion in our India operations between 2012 and 2020. By the end of that period, we think India could be one of our top five global markets.
The key to this success has been learning to see the Indian market as it is, not as we wished it to be.
One great example
Recognizing that small stores play a huge role in the lives of our customers has required us to do many things differently in India than we do in developed markets. We figured out, for example, that it wasn’t enough to provide small stores with Coke signs and teach them to display our products. Often, these stores had more basic concerns. Many couldn’t keep our drinks cold, because they weren’t connected to the electrical grid. More critically, small stores in India often are run by women, who have more difficulty than men in exercising economic rights like getting access to credit. We found we could help store owners address those and similar problems in ways that helped them, helped their communities, and also helped Coke.