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Creating Operating Units for Regional, Local Execution

T Krishnakumar     January 21, 2021

Covid-19 has changed the world as we know it - our daily lives look nothing like what they were in the beginning of 2020. During these tough times the key is to digest the crisis in total and think of not only managing it, but also preparing for the post-crisis tone. For India Inc, it perhaps translates into 'Innovation' and 'Adaptability' and these words seemed to have echoed through their halls, as it has been truly inspiring to see how businesses across industries are revisiting their models and pivoting their offerings to suit the new normal.

One particular organisational learning was remarkably quick, quicker to most of us, than some of the more arduous teachings of this difficult time. We learnt that adaptability is the only way to move forward.

At Coca-Cola India we took a phased approach towards evolving ourselves to rise up to the situation at hand:

  • Phase 1: Ensure the safety of people and community; lead by action. The company pledged Rs 100 crore to support communities during the pandemic.
  • Phase 2: Inspire people. Our campaign focused on local heroes who were making a difference to communities around them. Maana mushkil ki gadi hai par umeed usse bhi badi hai.
  • Phase 3: As things opened up, we slowly but steadily lived up to the idea of being a total beverage company. During these times, all brands have a role to play in consumers' lives. From pure indulgence to functional, we saw a pick-up in all benefits sought by consumers and we were there with them, all the way.

Ultimately, consumers are the essence of any business, and they were evolving and adapting to the changing external environment much faster. Occasions began blurring. Due to physical distancing, out-of-home occasions have transitioned to at-home moments. Consumers are turning to brands they trust, products that make them feel good and bring back some state of familiarity and "normalcy" in their lives. The time spent with one's family has also increased dramatically. All these point to a need for rapid adaptation. Let's deep dive into why.

Human beings are social creatures, and hence driven by a certain set of values garnered from both society and self. When it comes to values, consumers have always wanted to relate to a brand and see them as an extension of life choices. These values shape emotions and emotions drive behaviour. Currently when it comes to behaviour, every consumer's path to purchase has altered significantly as their core drivers for choosing a product have become safety, hygiene and trust. Consumers have become more conscious of what they are purchasing and consuming. Shopping is a deliberate exercise of choice, especially for categories that impact the family and its long-term health. Emphasising the immuno-boosting benefits of products and the fortification of micronutrients is gaining increased acceptance in a situation where consumers' main worry is falling ill.

As consumers' focus for choosing a product shifts to healthy, Covid-safe items, organisations must continue evolving and adapting to the new, changing market dynamics. Those that thrive quickly read the signals of change and pivot successfully. Innovation combined with agile adoption of new technologies and greater transparency will determine market leadership.

It was a trend we had anticipated and had already begun expanding. The Minute Maid as a platform for wellness launched two immuno-boosting variants Minute Maid Vita Punch and Minute Maid Nutriforce in August this year, offering consumers the benefits of mental agility and immunity. Vita Punch contains 100 per cent of the body's daily need for Vitamin C, while Nutriforce contains iron, zinc and vitamin complexes in an exceptional blend of apple juice. The products that have been designed to provide vital nutrients, aid metabolism and enhance cognition.

The accelerated digital transformation forced by the pandemic has been one of the biggest changes when it comes to consumer preference. With people spending more time on their digital devices, this trend is likely to stay even once we have settled into a post-pandemic world. What we've seen in our business is that among urban consumers, there is a strong movement towards newer platforms for purchase like e-commerce. The shift to becoming more available on e-commerce platforms, while revising pricing, promotion and packaging strategies can be a massive, exciting challenge. Organisations that experiment quickly, often and economically - with products, processes, business models and strategies - will ultimately win.

At Coca-Cola India we're presently building on digital, for it to be a growth engine for the future, and have already established a sizeable presence on all leading e-commerce platforms and have also built associations with major food aggregators. Through our tie-up with Common Services Center, we have tried to ensure rural last-mile delivery by listing all our popular products on their Grameen e-store platforms.

Globally, Coca-Cola is taking strategic steps to reorganise and better enable the system to pursue its Beverages for Life strategy, with a portfolio of drinks that are positioned to capture growth in a fast-changing marketplace.

The company is building a networked global organisation, combining the power of scale with the deep knowledge required to win locally. Changes in our operating model will shift our marketing to drive more growth and put execution closer to consumers while prioritising a portfolio of strong brands and a disciplined innovation framework. The company is creating new operating units focused on regional and local execution that will work closely with marketing category leadership teams that span the globe to rapidly scale ideas. This structure will be supported by the company's newly created Platform Services Organisation, which will provide global services and enhanced expertise across a range of critical capabilities. During the pandemic we have had to ensure that every moving part across the large Coca-Cola system was interlinked and benefiting from the changes being made.

It's always necessary that we prepare for whatever's next and do so with nimbleness and determination. But it's comforting to realise that no matter what happens, all of us are rallying for a better world, and building an improved, shared future together. And at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

(The author is President, Coca-Cola, India and South West Asia)


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