Why did you choose to take up management instead of becoming a doctor or an engineer?

Being involved with organizing committees from a very young age made me realise that management is where my passion lies. So here I am today! Though I must say that it wasn’t the smoothest ride, especially when I had to convince my parents that I wouldn’t be taking the JEE exams. The fact that I chose not to take the tried and tested route in life taught me to take risks.

In today’s age it is surprising to see someone spend close to two decades in one organisation itself. What made you continute your journey with Coca-Cola for so long?

The red passport that Coke provides has enabled me to truly follow my passion and is what which has made me stick around for such a long time. The best part is that I have travelled across 200 countries and never once have I had any immigration issues, even at times of strife and internal unrest. This was all possible because the brand that I represent is so well known and loved that it just breaks boundaries. This freedom to travel has helped me build connections with friends and family across the globe.

Any advice on facing challenges and failure

Success and failure are two sides of the same coin and there is always a 50-50 chance of either succeeding or failing. However if you are so scared of failing, that you never toss the coin – that in my mind is the biggest failure of all. My experience in life pushes me to take risks - If you fail, simply get up, dust yourself off and continue trying. 

What is your business philosophy?

The mantra which I firmly believe in is that having an idea is not enough. This idea should have the potential to meet fulfil an existing consumer need exponentially better, should be tested through a prototype, should be flexible and adaptable to consumer feedback and be backed by the right talent. All of this is great but will need to be backed by a properly managed cash flow. 

Who are your role models?

Within the Coca-Cola system, Robert Woodruff had an impeccable vision who went to globalise the brand and marry the partnership with humility which has helped in taking Coca-Cola to its current height. Closer home I admire how Kumar Mangalam Birla took over the business at a young age and built the company to a global powerhouse while maintaining high level of ethics.

Your advice to the youth

Learn to compete with oneself and not others as that is where true success lies. It is but human to envy a friend who is better at studies or is more talented but one should take it in their stride and evolve to become a better version of oneself. More importantly, I would encourage everyone to find their passion - it may not be easy and for those who haven’t, find what you are good at or what you love doing and do that for a profession.

What is your advice to people in this new wave of entrepreneurship?

Focus on building a business model that can generate cash before looking at scaling it up. With easy access to information, capital and social media, it is easy to identify areas that have scope for improvement and one should be flexible enough to adapt to the change. Qualities of perseverance and the ability to alter their ideas with changing circumstances are essential.

Leading an organisation like Coca-Cola India would leave you with little time for yourself. How do you unwind in such a scenario?

Music is my greatest stress buster and I enjoy listening to melodies of Coke Studio and classic Kishore Kumar numbers. Another thing which I love to whenever I get a chance is to experiment with my cookery skills by whipping up my favourite dishes like Goan style prawns, Konkan fish and grilled chicken and savour them with a glass of chilled Coke.  

Venkatesh Kini is the President for Coca-Cola India and South West Asia