Global beverages major The Coca-Cola Company is bullish on the Indian market and is continuing to invest in the country through its partners, the company’s President and Chief Financial Officer John Murphy said on Monday. India’s rapid progress in infrastructure, electrification and digitisation offer a long runway ahead for the economy to grow and it fosters confidence, he said at a media round table here.
A lot of development has taken place in urban and rural India, which has created an emerging middle class, ensuring growth for many years to come, he said. “When you have an economy growing, our industry typically benefits from economic growth,” he said. “For us, there are tremendous ingredients to the growth equation that we are developing. And to manage growth, you have to invest. We are fortunate to have partners in India who believe in the opportunity they have and are investing in infrastructure and people,” he noted.
A lot of investment is underway through franchise bottling partners in the country, who are investing while “believing the opportunity ahead”, he said, adding that it is going to continue. The cola major, which is divesting investments in bottling operations around the world, including the Indian market, would continue the exercise in a “thoughtful and very deliberate manner” as it plans to focus on building brands and being a good franchisor, he said.
About the reasons for the company’s bullish outlook on India, he said infrastructure development that is taking place in a “systematic way” across India is a key driver. Moreover, electrification in the rural parts has also transformed the landscape, which is an “extraordinary progress”. “The infrastructure, the electrification, the digitisation, there’s a long runway ahead, I think for the economy. This fosters confidence,” he said. Murphy said a “flywheel” of development has been unleashed and it promises tremendous opportunity for many years to come in India.
India is the company’s fifth largest market and Murphy said he expects it to climb up in “pretty soon”. “There are plenty of reasons to believe that India would move up in the ranking and not that too far out,” he said. Further, he said that 2022 was the “the strongest year ever” in India for the company when it heralded a period of rapid growth. Its two brands — Thums Up and Sprite — achieved the billion-dollar revenue generation mark, in the last two years. It expects another homegrown mango drink Maaza to become a billion-dollar brand.
When asked about the entry of billionaire Mukesh Ambani
About the divestment of bottling operation, Murphy said, “this has been done primarily to be a catalyst for the market… and India has been part of this process”. In 2019, the company divested bottling operations of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd (HCCBL) in four territories in North India. Presently, HCCBL operates close to 25 plants in India spread across South, West and East India.
“Our aim is to focus on the things that we are good at, which is building brands and being a good franchisor and partner to our bottlers around the world… and developing the ecosystem. So over the years, we will divest in other regions… we do it in a very thoughtful and very deliberate manner,” he said.