CocaCola – The New Rural Brand

Coca-Cola India is betting big on the rural markets and has recast its distribution strategy to get more people to sample its beverages, especially in the rural region. Venkatesh Kini, President of Coca-Cola India & South West Asia, talks about the new launches and the company’s strategy to focus on ‘Made in India and Made for India’ products.

Are you looking at making Coca-Cola your largest brand?

The way we approach it is that we pick a focus brand, drive it to leadership and then it continues to grow. In the past two-three years, we have been focusing on Coca Cola and it has been the fastest growing brand for us.

What becomes our largest brand depends on the consumers. The brand was launched nationally only in 1998 and is a relatively new brand. In some parts of the country, it still has not been tasted. So, sampling is the best strategy to grow the brand.

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What strategies has the company put in place for sampling?

Our bottling arm Hindustan Coca-Cola has introduced fountain machines on trucks and they take it to haats, melas and other such gatherings, and serve Coca Cola or our other beverages in a cup at Rs. 5 and it works very well, as there are rarely any permanent shop in these gatherings. These are some of the kind of innovations we are doing to increase the availability of our brands, especially in the rural regions.

Will rural markets be the key focus for future growth?

Rural markets have been growing faster than urban areas. That’s because a lot of inflationary pressures have hurt the urban middle class more while in the rural regions, there was a good monsoon last year. Also, some government schemes also benefited them. So, demand continues to be buoyant in the rural markets. We have restructured the entire distribution system to make it efficient to serve the smallest of villages and enable expansion of our distribution system, and there is a dramatic improvement in increasing the reach.

There has been talk about you expanding into dairy-based products as well as launching an energy product. Could you share details?

On the dairy front, we have this product called Maaza Milky Delite.

We have already piloted it in Kolkata and have received positive response. We are now looking at scaling it up. With more awareness, changes in consumption patterns, we are looking at some zero calorie innovations.

We have a number of zero calorie products in our portfolio worldwide, so we have a lot of products to choose from. We will be introducing a couple of products in India soon.

Do you have a roadmap for the products you will launch this year?

We are working on the combination of ‘made in India and made for India’, products. Maaza Milky Delite is completely local, unique and made in India. Similarly, the Minute Maid pulpy orange, which is a hugely successful brand from China.

When it went global, it was one of the first from an emerging market like China and we hope we could do it from India some day.

But we imported it into India, and it has been very successful in the orange flavour segment. But even if a product is successful in several countries, we have to pilot it in India and adapt it to the local taste, and it requires development, pilot and testing.

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