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In a strategic move, beverages major Coca-Cola has for the first time created the position of a Chief Digital Officer for the India and South West Asia business unit. Asha Sekhar, who recently took charge as CDO, told Business Line, that the company will not just have a single digital strategy for the entire region but leverage on the medium to go hyper-local and implement multiple strategies in different regions. Excerpts:

What goals have you set to accelerate the company’s digital transformation?

Digitalisation is redefining the ways companies connect, engage, communicate and do business. We hope to harness the power of digital end-to-end, which will enable our vision of being consumer-centric and making our products available to consumers whenever they want and in whichever way they want.

What will be your digital and e-commerce strategy? And does this mean you will significantly increase investments on this channel?

The e-commerce space presents an endless shelf for us. Till yesterday, it was about filling the physical shelf space. Now that shelf is at the fingertip of the consumers. India is not one country but multiple markets within one country. So, our approach will be to look at each market and see how we can have a viable business proposition for it. With the plethora of brands in our portfolio, we plan to use the power of digital to go hyper-local. We may need to adopt different business models for different markets.

We are also looking at newer ways to make our route-to-market better and to become a lot more agile. Our digital strategy will depend a lot on the way we work with our bottlers in various regions and understand which product needs to be delivered and how in that region. So, there cannot be a single strategy that fits all, but we will need to adopt a multi-strategy approach for different regions.

We are doing well in general and modern trade and now we need to put in place the foundational capabilities in the e-commerce space. As the time spent by a consumer on the medium goes up, our investments on the channel will also increase.

Do you expect the sales contribution of the e-commerce channel to rise dramatically in the next few months?

Contribution of e-commerce has been in negligible single digits. But the space is fast evolving. Last three months have been very different than what the space was in the beginning of the year. And suddenly one realises that it’s just a matter of one festival season or a summer for a particular category to take off big. So with the infrastructure in place, I believe in the next 12 months, the contribution could increase substantially.

But it is important to understand that the rate of this change in India is a bit patchy. Markets like Gurgaon or Delhi will evolve at a different pace compared with tier-2/3 markets. Consumers in metros are already adopting subscription models or willing to pay a premium for daily deliveries. But the online shopping patterns, frequency or value of transactions are a lot different in tier-2/3 markets.

Does that mean the company will leverage on the e-commerce channel to exclusively sell certain premium products?

For us e-commerce won’t just be a premium play. The digital channel has democratised the consumer products space. We are not focussing on one product or one category. While we have done digital initiatives for all products, for certain items, the e-commerce play will be bigger. Consumers may have tend to buy certain brands online, compared to other brands. Our SmartWater is a great example of a brand that has a higher percentage of sales coming from e-commerce compared to some of our other brands.

Personalisation is another trend that FMCG companies are harnessing. What are your plans?

Personalisation is not just about what consumers want but it also what they want to hear from the brand especially at the time when their attention is the highest. Those are some personalisation we are working on. Also, not every product needs to be sold to the universe of one billion consumers. The digital channel enables companies to implement strategies of segmentation and sharp targeting to the relevant section of consumers.

This article was originally published in Hindu Business Line. Also include By: Hindu Business Line