The importance of Emerging Markets to global businesses such as ours is well known. People tend to think of the BRICS countries (Brasil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and to a lesser extent countries like South Korea and Turkey.
But even as countries like China and India struggle to maintain the rapid growth of the last decade, the less talked about countries like Ethiopia, Vietnam or Pakistan, become ever more indispensable to our global growth. Indeed, our long-term commitment to countries such as these is a strong cornerstone to our success as a company today – and tomorrow.
Take Pakistan for instance, a great place to do business if you are willing to look beyond the often negative media headlines. With a population of 180 million, rising inflation, energy shortages and security issues, it is also not a business destination for the faint of heart.
Coke first entered Pakistan in 1953. Today, our business in Pakistan is strong because of 3 main reasons. We are committed to the country for the long haul, we have built very strong local roots, and we have learned to be more effective with fewer resources – adapting quickly to its sometimes rapidly fluctuating economy.
Years ago, when we were a distant number 2 in the country, we found ourselves facing great difficulty convincing all our business partners to buy into a growth plan. We spent months talking to them about our holistic, long-term plan for growth – committing to disciplined execution of our plans, in good times and in bad times. As a result, today our volumes are up, our bottling partners are engaged and investing and business is good.
Unlike mature markets, in emerging markets, winning plans, disciplined execution, and building belief and commitment across many stakeholders can bring positive results in a relative short time period. For long-term, sustainable growth, you need to look beyond the operations and seek out ways to add value to the local community as well.
In January 2010, we made a commitment to invest $300 million in Pakistan over 3 years. These investments go beyond bottling lines, delivery trucks or new hires. For example, we contributed over $6 million to community projects, provided millions of Iftar meals and are working to bring generations of Pakistanis together through a common passion: music. Our local music program, Coke Studio Pakistan, continues to be a source of national pride and inspiration by pairing new and traditional artists. With over 60 million hits on YouTube and around 1.5 million Facebook fans, people around the world have come to appreciate what Pakistan can offer.
I could go on and provide a longer list of our commitment and success in Pakistan, but that is not the purpose of this blog. The purpose is to show that by employing the right approach to doing business in emerging markets – and by seeing the glass half full rather than half empty – a global business can be very successful there – granted the glass is half filled, with Coca-Cola of course.
Ahmet C. Bozer is President of the Eurasia & Africa Group at The Coca-Cola Company.