Business Today

People First

Coca-Cola India makes the list of best employers for the first time, having institutionalised its grooming and mentoring processes.
Shamni Pande        Print Edition: Aug 3, 2014
Coca-Cola interns at a village in Haryana's Palwal district
Coca-Cola interns at a village in Haryana's Palwal district. (Photo: Vivan Mehra)

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Former employees are often best placed to assess the work culture of a company. "I spent the second best years of my life working at Coke," says Neeraj Kakkar, Co-founder and CEO, Hector Beverages, the start-up that owns beverage brands Tzinga and Paper Boat. "The first best years of my life are currently with my own company," he adds with a grin.

Kakkar acknowledges how rolling out his own venture was possible and easier because of his all-round exposure at Coca-Cola India. He worked for the beverage giant for seven years between 2001 and 2008. "I was familiar with all the challenges, be it supply chain, sales, marketing or distribution. The exposure employees get is simply the best," he says.

Over the past decade, Coke has expanded operations in India at a frenetic pace, clocking 31 consecutive quarters of consistent volume growth. In fact, India is today the sixth-largest market for the company globally and it has plans to invest another $5 billion in the country by 2020. Along the way, the company has invested in its employees - it currently has a headcount of 250 in India.

The company has empowered and given opportunities to its workforce, the kind that Kakkar still talks about with enthusiasm. Indeed, the company has institutionalised its grooming and mentoring processes. And clearly, the company believes in taking good care of its employees. "I have been with this organisation for almost 20 years and I have found the company consistently humane," says Sumanta Datta, Vice President and Customer Leadership, Coca-Cola India. Datta recalls the time when he fell ill in China - he was transported to Hong Kong to have the best medical care. "In fact, the CEO cut short his holiday and found it important enough to look me up," he says.

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The company has demonstrated its commitment to diversity at the workplace and has placed women in key positions in India. For instance, Anupama Ahluwalia is the Vice President; Sujatha Kumar, Director and Executive Assistant to President; Sonu Grover, Director for Strategic Initiatives; and Alpana Vartak, General Manager of HR.

This is affirmed by 28-year-old Sneha Vaidyanathan, Assistant Marketing Manager - South West Asia, Coca-Cola India. Her association with the company began as a mere intern while doing her management from MDI Gurgaon. "I got to handle the entire Coke Studio's first season in 2011. I loved the freedom and responsibility. Besides, who gives interns that kind of responsibility!" she remarks. Coke Studio is an Indian television series on MTV with live music performances.

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Not surprisingly, Vaidyanathan had no hesitation in accepting the job offer by the company in May 2012. As part of the management trainee rotation programme, she gained exposure in every department across the country - sales, manufacturing, marketing - and was also a part of the corporate social responsibility team for a while. "The entire scope is thrown open to you," she says of the opportunities given to her by the company. Coca-Cola India has 25 per cent women in its workforce today.

The company has a relatively low employee turnover ratio of under 13 per cent, possibly a result of its employee-centric policies.

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