• Sunday, April 20, 2014

Coca-Cola reaffirms $50m pledge for Bangladesh

Md Fazlur Rahman
Venkatesh Kini
Venkatesh Kini

Beverage giant Coca-Cola reiterated its plan to invest $50 million in Bangladesh to leverage the huge growth potential.
"The investment is part of Coca-Cola's plan to double the servings and revenues of the company by 2020," said Venkatesh Kini, deputy president of Coca-Cola for India and South West Asia.
The Atlanta-based firm plans to build manufacturing capability, install cooling equipment and expand rural reach, together with investing on research and development and consumer marketing, with the sum.
"We have acquired the land for the new plant, so a part of the investment is already on the ground. In the next one year or two you will see the results of the investment," he said, adding that the company is planning on further outlays.
Kini was in Dhaka last week for the FIFA World Cup Trophy tour, during which he sat down with The Daily Star for an interview.
Sponsoring the event, he says, is a means for the company to inculcate into people a passion for sports and healthy lifestyle.
Kini, who oversees Coca-Cola's operations in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, said Bangladesh has one of the lowest per capita consumption levels for packaged beverages: it stands at three against the global average of 94.
The company, however, believes the country has tremendous potential, particularly because of the demographics of 160 million and the steady economic growth.
"Among the countries that I manage, Bangladesh has the highest business potential. We have the highest growth expectation from Bangladesh in the next five years as well," he said, adding that the business in Bangladesh has grown significantly in the last five years.
Coca-Cola is currently the second biggest player after Pepsico in the domestic soft drink market with annual gross sales of Tk 2,000 crore.
"Within our company, there is a lot of optimism about Bangladesh's long-term future. We came to Bangladesh when no other company even thought about the country -- you always want your baby to become a successful adult."
Kini, who will take over the presidency of the region officially in January, highlighted the “immense” potential in the packaged beverage segment.
“Our efforts in Bangladesh need to be directed at being the beverage of choice all day and every day."
He also touched upon the issue surrounding his company's severance of ties with its long-term bottling and marketing agent, Tabani Beverage, a concern of the Freedom Fighters' Welfare Trust.
The American multinational beverage corporation cancelled its decades-old agreement with Tabani in 2008 following years of losses and failure to maintain quality standard. The company even agreed to pay $16 million to clear Tabani's dues.
"We have already made a proposal to the government to close the deal with Tabani Beverage, and there has been some positive progress. We are actually looking forward to reaching a settlement."

The issue, which is now lying with the cabinet, is likely to be settled on December 29, according to Finance Minister AMA Muhith.
Kini also said the company, however, is trying to ensure that its support for the Freedom Fighters' Association continues.
"We have got a very positive feedback from the government. There are a couple of technical details which need to be sorted out," said Kini, who has been with the company for 15 years.
Worldwide, Coca-Cola has 400 brands. But in Bangladesh, only four brands -- Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta and Diet Coke -- are available. He said the company will look to expand its product portfolio once the business in Bangladesh grows.
Coca-Cola has a global policy of not marketing its products to children under 12 years of age as it believes that they are not in a position to make any decision on their own.  

fazlur.rahman@thedailystar.net

Published: 12:00 am Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Last modified: 9:50 pm Wednesday, December 25, 2013

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