Coca-Cola's India mission is to grow beyond a single-brand company: T Krishnakumar

T Krishnakumar, President, Coca-Cola India & Southwest Asia, shares that India has undergone several changes that have had a direct impact on consumer behaviour

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Jul 24, 2017 7:42 AM  | 4 min read

For T Krishnakumar, President, Coca-Cola India & Southwest Asia, India as a market has evolved significantly over time both in content consumption patterns and in the expectations that consumers have from brands.


While launching the 13th edition of BW Businessworld Marketing Whitebook 2017 recently, Krishnakumar spoke about how newer technologies have often been credited for their ability to transform businesses. According to him, even for a company like Coca-Cola, given its sheer scale and legacy, change is not the easiest to come by. “Coca-Cola is one of the oldest businesses in the world and when you have a brand of that stature, you tend to be conservative since much is at stake,” Krishnakumar admitted but also explained that some changes in business approach and the overall mission in connecting with consumers has helped the brand transcend heritage and grow.


Embracing change


India has undergone several changes that have had a direct impact on consumer behaviour. The retail landscape, for instance, has moved from the dominance of the mom-and-pop stores to the rise of what could be termed as organised retail and larger format stores. According to Krishnakumar, this change has created an unprecedented complexity, “Companies need to know changing trends such as revival of interest in traditional choices, in local products and content or being open to new cultures and senses. And we have to understand the new-age consumer’s desire to be hyper productive. As ‘managers’ of this relationship, we have to leverage the opportunities that technology offers us, and do so while providing a combination of experience and utility. The result of all these changes is visible in changing consumer expectations. There are some aspects that clearly stand out in that regard.”


Brands need to adopt a ‘socially conscious’ approach


In the words of Krishnakumar, the real success of any brand lies in its impact on ushering a positive social change while keeping its business opportunities in sharp focus. Explaining how Coca Cola ensures that it serves the market and the community it operates in, he added, “In our bid to grow beyond a single beverage brand name, we have transformed into a company that serves the market and the community it operates in. When we get into something, we do it with scale and sincerity. In the last decade, we have really worked hard with our brands. Maaza, for instance, has grown to be the most loved beverage brand in the country. If we have to sustain the growth in this category, we have to work with farmers and help them increase their yield, we have partnered with vendors so we are able to move businesses—both ours and our partners’.”


Coca Cola’s programme ‘Unnati’ is an attempt to focus on the welfare of farmers. Currently, the programme is active in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.


Explaining how this programme is benefitting the farmer community and how Coca Cola India is trying to grow beyond a single brand company, Krishnakumar said, “We are also working at constantly expanding this concept to newer places. We tied up with the government of Maharashtra to use locally produced oranges for our production and the thought was to help local cultivators and encourage them to increase their production. We have also launched Fanta with orange juice, and the re-launch is slated for next month. We are navigating a circular economy, with the commercial product adding value and creating stable demand.”



Staying ahead of the curve


Speaking about competition and dealing with disruptors in the space, Krishnakumar believes that in the long run competition has its own role to play. “There have been many brands in the past that have tried to disrupt, and some have done so successfully. Whenever that happens, it means we have overlooked a particular area. But competition in all forms and shapes should be respected only because they serve the same consumers,” he explained.

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