Coca-Cola continues to innovate in India to provide a greater number of products to the bottom of the pyramid. The Emerging Markets & Franchise Leadership team will help develop new products, improve distribution channels, and work with retailers and bottlers to find better ways to market its products. With 20% of its sales in rural markets, Coca-Cola India seeks to distribute products designed to last longer and be more useful in such environments. The company sites shelf-life and electricity as two key factors in developing products for rural India.

MUMBAI: In a bid to accelerate growth in key categories, Coca-Cola India has introduced changes to its management structure. While on the one hand, the world’s largest non-alcoholic drinks maker has created a new vertical to push growth in rural markets by catering to the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) consumers, on the other it has introduced a division to focus on shopper marketing, which will draw sharper insights from purchasing patterns of consumers.

While the BOP verticalm, called Emerging Markets & Franchise Leadership, will be fronted by Sanjeev Gupta, the customer & commercial vertical, for tracking shopper insights will be led by Sumanto Datta. The cola major had in March this year brought in Andriy Avramenko to spearhead the newly created juice division, which recently launched 100% juice under the Minute Maid brand. All these verticals directly report to Atul Singh, president of the India and South West Asia, Coca-Cola.

Creating new positions of senior leaders is one way in which the company is capitalizing on the growth opportunities. The other tool which the company is using to grow its business is innovation. The position of vice president, strategy & innovation has just been strengthened with a larger focus on innovation. Debabrata Mukherjee spearheads this role for India & South West Asia.

“We will innovate and launch new products aimed at the bottom of the pyramid segment, devise suitable product distribution and retailing opportunities in conjunction with the bottlers and market the products to this category,” Atul Singh, told TOI in an interview.

Two products from the Coca-Cola stable which have been launched catering to this segment are Vitingo, a beverage powder enriched with vitamins, and Fanta Fun taste powder at the Rs 5 price point which was piloted in April this year.

Interestingly, rival cola major, PepsiCo India has also launched a glucose based beverage, Gluco Plus and Lehar Iron Chusti, a fortified iron snack in order to make inroads into the huge, yet unexplored, consumer base in rural India. These products are priced in the range of Rs 2-5.

“In rural markets, we have just begun our penetration. There are certain states in which we are fully penetrated, such as Punjab. If you look at how shampoo sachets are sold in rural markets it is a one way journey. But, I have to go and pick up the empty bottles, which makes it a two way journey. To keep a product in rural markets, it has to have a shelf life and electricity is a huge issue here. If I don’t get a certain through-put, it doesn’t make sense. We would like it to happen quickly, but it will take time. It is certainly an opportunity,” said Singh. As per industry estimates, Coca-Cola India draws under 20% of its sales from the rural markets.