As it expects the volume turnaround momentum to continue in India, The Coca-Cola Company wants the country to be “the no. 3 market” in the future from the present sixth slot.
Describing India as “a great country and a great place to do business”, Coca-Cola president and chief executive James Quincey on Thursday said the recent blip in sales are behind them and that he is looking to build the fundamentals stronger to make India’s business much bigger.
“Over the last few decades, we’ve been investing in India, creating lots of jobs and lots of business and it has become the sixth largest market in the Coke system.
“The most immediate challenge for KK (T Krishnakumar, president of Coca-Cola India & Southwest Asia) is to become no. 5 in the foreseeable future, but in the end, my vision for India is it will be one of the top three markets in the world for Coca-Cola,” Quincey told a select group of reporters.
Quincey, who was elevated as the CEO of the Atlanta- based cola major in May, also said India is a great country with many opportunities and a great future and Coke wants to build a good business here and without quantifying the amount, committed to investment more than USD 5 billion by 2020 as announced earlier.
“India is going to return to vibrant growth…India can be a very successful place to build the business. The ideal is let’s get from six to five on the way to being no 3 is the mandate,” he said.
He parried a question on how much of the said investment have already been made, saying, “We continue with our investment plan through 2020. We’ll keep making more investments. We want to be consistently investing.”
Admitting that sales had fallen in the last quarter of 2016 and in the first quarter of 2017, he said things have started to turn around.
“No business can grow in a perfect straight line. We’ve had a rough few months at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year but things are starting to turn around and come back. We are still very positive,” he said.
Though he promised to reduce the sugar content in their products — an issue that has been gaining currency across the world on health grounds — Quincey did not offer a timeline to do so, but said, faster growth in India will also come from non-carbonated (non-sparkling) drinks, as elsewhere.
When asked about when will the company have a 50:50 product and revenue share globally, he parried a direct answer but said it took almost 15 year to reach 70 per cent from 90 per cent so, and it could be 2025 or 2030.
He was, however, quick to add that sparkling drinks will continue to grow here and will remain the focus in the immediate future.
Quincey also said the company is open to inorganic growth opportunities as in the past, Coke had bought out the local brand – ThumsUp which still continues to be the volume driver here.
The company will be investing more in the non-sparkling segment to expand the portfolio.
“If you went back 10-15 years, the business was still 90 per cent sparkling globally which now is under 70 per cent. We see an opportunity to not just continue but accelerate the broadening of the portfolio yet during that time sparkling continued to grow.
But he was quick to add, “Over the next five years the revenue we get from sparkling in India will grow and yet the total revenue will grow faster than sparkling. Over time we’ll get more and more of the other categories contributing to the revenue.