When you’ve got more than 1.2 billion residents, marketers want you in the worst way. And so Coca-Cola is going big-time after the Indian market, upping its investment there by $3 billion to a whopping $5 billion through 2020. That means the next time you go to there to climb the world’s third-highest mountain, Kanchenjunga, or visit with the Dalai Lama, a Coke product shouldn’t be too far away from your grasp.
According to Fox Business, the money will go toward helping Coca-Cola's India subsidiary expand “its distribution network, cold drink equipment placement and manufacturing capacity.” The company had a good first quarter with earnings rising 7.9% and revenue going up almost 6%. In India, though, the company had a 20% increase. Not too shabby. In fact, sales have gone up in India for 23 straight quarters and Coke’s Thums Up and Sprite are the two leading soft-drink brands there, Fox reports.
"Achieving continued sustainable, responsible growth in India is core to achieving our 2020 Vision of doubling system revenues in this decade," said Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company in a press release. "Our ongoing investment in India is focused on delivering innovation, partnerships and a portfolio that enhances the consumer experience, ensures product affordability and builds brand loyalty to deliver long-term growth."
The desire for "sustainable growth" in India comes as the company's sustainability progress is in the spotlight, including in the India market. According to brandchannel parent Interbrand's just-released Best Global Green Brands ranking, Coca-Cola came in at #23, middle of the list of 50 brands, for the following reasons:
Coca-Cola consistently ranks as the world's most valuable brand, but, when it comes to sustainability, the company's performance is still mid-table. To its credit, Coca-Cola has made significant progress addressing its major areas of environmental impact. Packaging, for instance, is one critical area for the company and PlantBottle (30 percent plant-based; 100 percent recyclable) has proven to be a meaningful, potentially trendsetting development. The company’s work to reduce carbon emissions system-wide is also paying off, as Coca-Cola emerged a leader in our Supply Chain pillar this year. In addition to lowering overall emissions, the company also improved its water use ratio and is continuing efforts to treat wastewater to a level deemed safe for aquatic life. Though pollution is still an issue, particularly in India and China, the brand maintains leading green perceptions, no doubt due to its high profile and well-publicized green initiatives. However, Coca-Cola's score increase is largely due to strides in disclosure, especially around water. Although Coca-Cola still sees a negative gap [between its sustainability performance and consumer perception], the size of the gap was markedly reduced this year. Clearly, Coca-Cola is on the right track, but needs to step up performance to match consumers' high expectations for the iconic brand.
Coca-Cola first sold products in India back in 1952, Bloomberg reports, but then stopped in 1977 “when government regulations changed and required the company to have a local partner.” The rules have changed since then to allow a wholly owned subsidiary to operate there so Coke brought its beverages back to the world’s second-most populated country in 1993. And while it has had its share of critics in the market, particularly on the hot-button issue of its consumption of local water resources, it's clearly got the money and now the additional commitment to find its way into the nation's good graces.
Below, watch Coca-Cola's "Reasons to Believe in India" video that was released in January, part of a bigger corporate citizenship campaign: