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'Coca-Cola will continue to invest in India'

By Shahana Joshi
March 19, 2010 11:27 IST
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The world's largest beverage maker Coca-Cola is bullish about its India operations after recording one of its highest growth numbers in the October-December 2009 quarter. In an interview with Business Standard, President & CEO (India and South-West Asia) Atul Singh talks about what drives the company and what makes India so special. Excerpts:

With volume growth touching 22 per cent in India, your highest ever, how do you view the coming year and what has the journey been like?
We have had 14 consecutive quarters of growth in India, out of which 11 saw double-digit growth. We have done exceptionally well in both our sparkling and still beverages, which is basically our entire portfolio. So, one could say that India has done very well from a macro-economic standpoint. It certainly is a strategic market and the Coca-Cola Company will continue to invest in India.

Most FMCG companies are pitching products on the health platform. What are your plans?
We are very particular about giving consumers a choice. We sell close to around 1.6 billion drinks daily around the world. So, giving the consumer a choice is very important - be it our colas and flavoured carbonated beverages or juices like Minute Maid and Nimbu Fresh. Or, more recently, our energy drink Burn. It is purely need-based. We have more than 3,300 beverages globally and are bringing them to India as and when there is a need. And, depending on the need, we introduce our beverages on different occasions and through different channels.

Did the Union Budget announcements meet your expectations?
It was a definite challenge for the government this time round in terms of the Budget. The balance that they have had to strike between sustainable growth and inflation, especially with the rocketing commodity prices, has been quite an uphill task. We as company will continue to invest in India as Coca- Cola feels this country has great potential.

How do you see your per capita consumption in India increasing in the future?
There is certainly pressure on costs with various commodity prices going up, coupled generally with an increase of other input costs. We are exploring investments in distribution and manufacturing and also on training and further hiring in terms of bottling partners.

Are you effecting any changes in your bottling norms in India?
There will be no change here in India at all. We are a global company and most of our operations are very country-specific. So, what we do in one country may or may not affect operations in another.

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Shahana Joshi Mumbai
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