Yes, there has been a global crisis but we at Coca-Cola India have had 13 quarters of very strong growth, with the last four being over 30 percent and the last one clocking 37 percent. The key learning for me that got reiterated in this global financial crisis was that one must stick to the basics. One must continue to focus on the fundamentals.
I started my career in New York and I was quite surprised to know how highly leveraged these global banks were. These were admired institutions. It just brought home the fact that no matter how big a company is if it takes risks which are not well thought out then it can become extinct in a day. The flipside is that some banks did better than others too because they stuck to their core competencies. So it is important to stick to the basic knitting.
What was stunning about the crisis was the magnitude of the impact. And while we are all inter-dependent, India has been relatively insulated. So we stuck to our plans. The strategic plan remained intact. The investment plan remained intact. We introduced new products and changed packaging in others.
The other thing which was clear was that executives are custodians of shareholders. We have to ensure that the right things are being done. The crisis demonstrated that it is easy to turn into dust because you did not do the right things. The fundamentals of good business have been re-emphasised. It also forces us to think can we use money has a motivator? There has to be a more holistic approach of following the right culture, the right values and not just driving the organisation through big, fat cheques. Coca-Cola prides itself on its values. We drive our people, but at the same time we also protect our planet. It stems from the 6 Ps-product, portfolio, people, planet, profitability and productivity.
An organization such as Coca-Cola has an enormous global experience. And tough times, such as what we went through, further stress the point that we must learn a lot from each other. We must continue to build global network of sharing best practices.
— Atul Singh, 49, President and CEO, India and South West Asia, Coca Cola
(As told to N. Madhavan)