Investments for building long-term presence in India remain intact: Coca-Cola

Beverage major Coca-Cola’s long-term investment plans in India remain intact despite coronavirus-induced economic turbulence, a key company executive said.

Accordingly, the beverage major is expected to complete the earlier announced $5 billion investment this year for creation of retail infrastructure, bottling plants and introduction of new products, amongst others.

Since its re-entry into India in 1993 till 2011, Coca-Cola had invested $2 billion in the country.

Additionally, the company has committed an investment of $1.7 billion towards creating a ‘Fruit Circular Economy’ to aid the Indian agri-ecosystem till 2023.

“We continue to invest in big bets and strategic priorities that will help us emerge stronger. Our investments of building a long-term presence in India remains intact,” T. Krishnakumar, President, Coca-Cola India & South W est Asia, told IANS.

“As the situation evolves, we will flex our business models to adapt to the new normal to deliver long-term shared value in India.”

On the Covid-19 induced economic turbulence, Krishnakumar said the pandemic’s ongoing evolution has led to uncertainty around its ultimate impact.

“Hence, any immediate outlook may not be complete or conclusive… Covid-19 has obviously impacted all businesses significantly. We are, however, witnessing improvement in both consumer sentiment and consumption,” he said.

“While away-from-home consumption in channels like travel, restaurants, entertainment and hospitality may take longer to come back to normal, ‘At Home’ consumption is robust and growing.”

In terms of demand, Krishnakumar expects a faster bounce-back in rural consumption on the back of reverse migration, better monsoon, improved agricultural income, and government support.

According to him, a change in consumer behaviour and consumption patterns have been witnessed.

“While consumers are conscious of what they are buying and dependent on what is available, there is a strong trend to purchase trusted brands,” he said.

“Coca-Cola’s heritage and its relationship with the consumer over the years has helped us continue to be a part of the consumer’s basket even during this pandemic.”

Furthermore, he noted a change in channel choice of consumers.

“Grocers, who have been the lifeline during the lockdown, are likely to continue to be a stronger channel, along with the newly-emerging chemists who are unaffected by the lockdown,” Krishnakumar said.

“Innovative ways to reach the consumer along with affordability will be important to drive the demand.”

Besides strategy to deal with the pandemic, the company has also committed an initial support of over Rs 100 crore for helping the healthcare system and communities to combat COVID-19 and contain its spread.

At present, it has activated more than 50 locations across 10 states in partnership with its bottlers to support the hydration needs of the underserved communities through distribution of beverages during the lockdown period.