INDIA – The Coca-Cola Company plans to set up a research and development (R&D) centre in India as part of a mission to make India one of the company’s top three markets, according to company CEO, James Quincey.

In an interview with the Mint, Quincey said he sees sparkling beverages, fruit-based products and innovation as crucial to Coke’s growth in India.

Speaking on the impact of trade war, the 54-year old CEO said trade dispute reduces overall consumer demand which eventually impacts on the overall business operations of the company.

He has outlined a short-term vision for India with a goal to make it number five global market from the current number six in terms of volume.

Looking into the future, he said the potential presented by local businesses in India will probably push India to the top three position in the global market.

Growth in India is supported by a large population and innovations with sparkling drinks as well as fruit and fruit-based drinks which will be enabled through tapping into local fruits and the fruits that people know.

“The business will not be just sparkling but also fruit drinks and fruit-based drinks… where really it is about clarity of saying the chances of being successful are if we can tap into a lot of the local fruits and a lot of the fruits that people know,” said Quincey.

“You are not going to decide on what fruits and fruit drinks people drink from one place in the world with however much information you have.

“So being able to develop and sell such drinks, whether it is mosambi or any of the other local fruits, is clearly a part of providing a portfolio of beverages that people want because today they might be able to squeeze it, but when it is not in season, they don’t get it.

And so, we see the opportunity and value around, which will benefit the consumer.”

Coca-Cola operates through franchising and remains steadfast on the future of its business around the world, despite the changing political environment at the local level.

The company invests in its local businesses, where production happens with a focus on how to integrate local difference and local characteristics into the global community.

The future of Coca-Cola outside beverages in India

When asked about the company’s take on India’s snack segment, Quincey said the focus was on beverages which are supported by a business system that is more able to manufacture, distribute, sell, market something more agile than entering other food categories.

Despite India being a good market for snacks, Quincey alluded that it ‘is just not the most logical next thing to do’.

In India, he sees a potential for coffee given that the company recently acquired Costa Coffee to explore opportunities of introducing ready-to-drink products.

Quincey has identified three growth areas that will drive growth in India that are: sparkling beverages, fruit drinks and innovation such as Minute Maid Colors or Smart Water.