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CAGE 2013 - 'We got it wrong' in India - Coca-Cola Co

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A senior Coca-Cola Co executive has admitted the group “got it wrong” in India but the country is now on course to be one of its “great markets”. 

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Speaking at this year's CAGE conference in London yesterday (19 March), Irial Finan, the head of Coca-Cola's bottling investments group, flagged that, in the last three years, Coca-Cola has seen its volumes in India rise by 15% on a compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Today, the firm has three of the top five sparkling soft drinks brands in India. 

In 2008, Coca-Cola launched a marketing strategy, targeting semi-urban and rural markets in the country.

But Finan told CAGE delegates: “Five or six years ago, quite frankly, we got it wrong. We put in place a formal strategy... we had taken a wrong turn. But we recalibrated, we learnt from our mistakes.” 

He added: “It's not about a one-year fix, it's about many, many years. India is destined to be one of our great markets in the years ahead.”

Coca-Cola has endured a chequered history in India. In 1977, the company exited the country over a dispute with the government and its policies towards foreign firms. It re-entered in 1993, but in 2003 faced accusations around its environmental practices

Turning to China, Finan acknowledged there had also been a “bump in the road” last year. He remained cautious about the company's prospects for 2013, however. "We believe it will be a robust market and get back to double-digit growth," he said, but added: "We are not saying it will be there this year.”

He added: “We continue to be constructively discontented with ourselves (in China). Are we investing the right level of our brands, do we have the right brands strategy? We look forward to better days ahead in China.”

Last week, it emerged that Coca-Cola had been investigated by the Chinese authorities over allegations that it illegally mapped parts of Yunnan province.

Later at CAGE, Coca-Cola's CFO, Gary Fayard, talked up the firm's prospects in Africa. “It's a tremendous opportunity,” he told delegates. “Governance is improving, wealth is improving. We are the largest company employer on the continent of Africa today. It's got good growth rates and will have for years to come.” 

Last month, Coca-Cola reported single-digit rises in group full-year profits and sales.


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