There seems to be no end to the troubles of the coloured – water giant Coca Cola. The cola giant had entered India decades back but left the country in the late 1970s. It staged a comeback in the early 1990s through the acquisitions route. The professional management style of Coca Cola did not jell with the local bottlers. Four CEOs were changed in a span of seven years. Coke could not capitalize on the popularity of Thums Up. Its arch rival Pepsi is well ahead and has been able to penetrate deep into the Indian market. Red in the balance sheet of Coke is becoming thicker and industry observers are of the opinion that it would take at least two decades more before Coke could think of making profits in India.
It was in the early 1990s that India started liberalizing her economy. Seizing the opportunity, Coca Cola wanted to stage a comeback in India. It chose Ramesh Chauhan of Parle for entry into the market. Coke paid $100 million to Chauhan and acquired his well established brands Thums Up, Goldspot and Limca. Coke also bagged 56 bottlers of Chauhan as a part of the deal. Chauhan was made consultant and was also given the first right of refusal to any large size bottling plants and bottling contracts, the former in the Pune – Bangalore belt and the latter in the Delhi and Mumbai areas.
Jayadeva Raja, the flamboyant management expert was made the first CEO of Coke India. It did not take much time for him to realize that Coke had inherited several weaknesses from Chauhan along with the brands and bottlers. Many bottling plants were small in capacity (200 bottlers per minute as against the world standard of 1600) and used obsolete technology. The bottlers were in no mood to increase their capacities, nor were they willing to upgrade the trucks used for transporting the bottle. Bottlers were more used to the paternalistic approach of Chauhan and the new professional management styles of Coke did not go down well with them....
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