We see India as a bigger bet: Coca-Cola APAC chief

Less than five months after The Coca-Cola Company’s president for APAC, Manuel “Manolo” Arroyo took on an additional role of global chief marketing officer, the world barelled into a crisis unlike anything it’s seen in recent history. Last month, the company that owns brands like Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Minute Maid, Thums Up and tea and coffee brands – Georgia and Costa, withdrew its 2020 outlook, citing the impact of the novel Coronavirus. During his visit to India before the nationwide lockdown, Arroyo spoke exclusively to ET Brand Equity, about dealing with the global pandemic, economic downturns, and building billion-dollar brands through good times and bad. Edited excerpts:

How is the company dealing with the Covid-19 threat?

We are trying to do our part to support our communities and help prevent further spread of the virus, while also supporting the needs of our local customers, consumers, and employees. From day one, we have put the health, safety and security of people first. We will continue to evolve our business models to the changed scenario, staying close to our bottling partners, customers and suppliers. We will continue work to keep the confidence of our investors high.

To ensure our products’ availability, we maintain business continuity plans to address any supply chain challenges that could arise. We also have rapid response teams throughout the world to help identify issues that may need to be resolved so we can continue to operate efficiently and effectively. The company has had this process in place for 20 years.

What’s your reading of the prevailing economic and socio-political situation, and how are you dealing with dramatic disruptions?
We are a business that has been around for 130 years, and we’ve seen almost anything that one can imagine. We don’t mean everything but almost anything, and that includes hyperinflation, massive devaluations etc. One of the biggest lessons that we have learnt internally, and which very much has become a part of our DNA is that in tough times, one needs to invest more, and that’s one of the keys to long-term success. At Coca-Cola, we have always been focusing on strong long-term growth and performance, and we will continue to do that.

How have you seen the market change in India?

India in the last 5 years has grown what most of the other geographies have not even seen in 20 years. The speed of change in India is somewhat similar to the pace in China, some years ago. So, everyone has been focused on China so much so that the companies missed out on the fact that there is a new, even better lion than China that has come in, and that is India. As a company, we see India as a bigger bet, geographically than any other geography around the world and that includes everyone.

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