Designing win-win partnerships with companies. Pushing institutional sales with marquee modern trade outlets. Running promotions with various partners to perk up sales.

As the Coca-Cola’s lead for key accounts, Reetima Rakyan has been responsible for all this and more. The job made her travel to and meet customers in large cities, often referred to as institutional buyers. These included companies, modern retail and other large institutional buyers for various brands of Coca-Cola in India. In short, the big opportunities were driving Reetima for the last few years.

A few months ago, her role underwent an important change. Reetima is now leading the team that is focusing on the small opportunities for Coca-Cola products in markets that are used to very small purchases. It also means working with other teams to help develop products that can appeal to over half a billion potential consumers geographically deep inside India. She is driving the portfolio being developed in the affordable category of consumers. Small is the big opportunity!

“90 per cent of the FMCG transactions happen at price points of Rs. 10 or lower. For the beverage industry, that is also an opportunity,” Reetima says, about the opportunity she is driving.

It was this market that was waiting to be addressed since most of these transactions happen at one of the nine million kirana stores across the country. Reaching out to the consumers with a portfolio at an affordable price point is now the Holy Grail for Reetima and her team at Coca-Cola India. Some products have been launched while others are being worked upon in the labs.

Building the affordable portfolio

Early in 2018, Coca-Cola was putting together a plan to build a low price point portfolio for markets where its traditional products across different brands were perceived to be expensive These markets either needed new products or the existing products had to be presented in smaller pack sizes. The team needed to find out ways to reach out to consumers who may have tasted Coca-Cola or Sprite or one of the other highly popular beverages, but not more.

It was not just the portfolio that the team needed to figure out. They also had to think of ways to change the way the product reached the distributors so that the price could be affordable for the end consumer. Finally, if there was something more or different that the consumer wanted, the team needed to ensure agility to adapt and change to suit these needs. Since the products were being launched in select markets, the communication to consumers also had to be tailored accordingly.

At Rs. 10, the pricing for these products was finalised keeping in mind the hot spot for FMCG goods.

The introduction of new flavours has got a fillip with the new approach to working. The 200 ml Aquarius Glucocharge pack was launched earlier in the year in lemon, orange and apple flavours. More flavours are on the way to give wider options for the consumers to choose from.

“The Rs. 10 price point is great value for consumers in summers, when the humidity is 80 per cent. People need something cold and refreshing to drink,” says Adit Hans, the distributor for Aquarius Glucocharge in Orissa.

Fresh approach to reaching the consumer

The period of March-July is the time when Orissa is very hot and hydration products fly off the shelves. The launch for Aquarius Glucocharge was done during the off season and still the demand appeared to be strong. And growing. That helped put together a distribution network in place to be ready for next year’s summer.

With over 100 distributors already by November 2018, the number is rapidly expanding even while the product has taken wings. For efficiency in reaching out to the markets, state-level distribution partners are helping in reaching out to the deepest part of the markets. It has helped create demand for the products in areas which have not been reached through the traditional route. The ‘super-stockist’ model is helping take the product to the interior markets.

The manufacturing process has also undergone a discernible change. For several products, Coca-Cola has gone through the route of getting them manufactured by bottlers and using the bottling partners’ distribution network to sell the products. For reaching the market with the new, innovative products, a co-packer’s help has been sought, making it a more efficient operation. Co-packing is the ability to use the manufacturing plant of a partner so that the operations of Coca-Cola can be more efficient.

The co-packer’s facility is now being used for a truckload of about 700 cases, the near-ideal situation for reaching out to smaller markets, before being sent to cash and carry locations.

When all this was put in place over several months, there was one critical change that happened in the way Coca-Cola got ready for a new product launch. Over the years, the average time it takes for a new product, from conception to launch, has been around nine months. With the new approach that time has been cut by more than half!

Even while the market for the core product is growing, in response to the demand from consumers, new flavours will soon be introduced in the market, developed in just a few months.

With several affordably priced products, scaling up could happen faster. More products and variants will add fillip to the portfolio.

Connecting with local language

For the first time, Coca-Cola has made an advertisement in Odiya, keeping in mind the local audience. The TVC is hoping to communicate the benefits of nutrition and hydration of the people in their language.

As the products were sampled at different locations in Orissa, there was some excitement among consumers. They were getting to taste a product that was a definite solution to their problems during a humid day. The price is light on the pocket and that added to the excitement.

The affordability mantra did wonders for Coca-Cola nearly 15 years ago, when it launched the campaign about the world’s favourite cola being available for Rs. 5. The new affordable product range is helping take that thought ahead. It is advantage consumers!