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‘Coca-Cola focuses on engagement with consumer and community for sustainability in Nepali market’

Coca-Cola, the world’s most preferred beverage, has been in Nepal for the last five decades. As one of the largest multinational companies operating in Nepal, Coca-Cola has also been involved in various social initiatives in the country. For the last three years, the Coca-Cola Foundation has been supporting the Mountain Clean-up Campaign in Nepal. Along with increasing its engagement in such noble causes, CocaCola also plans to further expand in Nepal and work more on consumer satisfaction. Sujan Dhungana and Umesh Poudel of Fiscal Nepal caught up with Adarsh Avasthi, country director for Nepal and Bhutan, CocaCola Company, to know more on Coca-Cola in Nepal, its initiatives, priorities and future plans. Excerpts:

Could you please tell us about the journey of Coca-Cola in Nepal?

It has been 40 years since we have been in Nepal and the journey has been a very satisfying one in terms of the business that we have done and also the social impact that we have been trying to create on the local communities here.

We are probably one of the earliest multinational companies (MNCs) to set up operation in Nepal. We first started business in Nepal in 1973. Coca-Cola first set up its plant in Balaju in 1978. We setup a full-fledged manufacturing unit in Nepal. Over the last forty years, we have developed a good network of partners in the country.

We have distributor and retailer partnerships across the country footprint that helps in serving the consumers chilled and refreshing Coca-Cola products. We service them more than twice a week. All these people are directly/indirectly connected to the Coca-Cola system.

All these bonds and networks take time to build. The company shares a good relationship with all our distributors and retailers. Nepali consumers love momos. For the last six/seven years, we have been promoting the combination of Coca-Cola and momos and consumers in Nepal are increasingly loving it.

How did the concept of momo-Coca-Cola combination come about?

Basically, the concept of this combination came because momo is the favorite snack available across the country. As momo is a hot and spicy snack, Coca-Cola really goes well with it. Momo-Coca-Cola combination was primarily an insight that came from consumers itself.

How do you view the Coca-Cola drinking culture in Nepal?

We aim to make the drink affordable and accessible across Nepal. We have recently launched a new Coca-Cola bottle, Kanchu Pack which is really an environmentally sustainable pack. We aim at making it affordable and accessible to consumers in Nepal.

Why do you think is the consumption rate of Coca-Cola low in Nepal?

Except Kathmandu, the consumption rate of Coca-Cola per consumer is around 10-12 bottles in a year. We have launched consumer-friendly bottles in Nepal so that our products can be easily transported to all nooks and corners of the country.

We launched our Kanchu pack in Nepal last year because leaving aside Kathmandu the ability of people to spend money on discretionary items is still limited. Unless we provide our products at an affordable rate, it may not be possible for them to purchase our products. And that is one particular reason why we launched the Kanchu pack at Rs 25 a bottle.

You have been highlighting the affordability issue repeatedly. Are you trying to say that Coca-Cola products are still costly in Nepal?

To be honest, I would not say that Coca-Cola products are costlier in Nepal as compared to other markets for consumers. We believe that only 20 percent of consumers in Nepal buy our products today. It is still an intriguing aspect as to why the other 80 percent consumers do not consume Coca-Cola products here when they go out to eat.

It is normal for every market to have its own set of demands; each market is peculiar in itself. How does Coca-Cola view the market in Nepal?

In the category that we are involved in I can confidently say that Coca-Cola is the leader in Nepal. I must add that Nepal is a strong market for us. We want to continue to invest in Nepal’s market, and further engage with Nepali consumers and communities here. The company is putting in a lot of effort in Nepal. We are focused on being engaged with Nepali consumers and communities.

You have been looking after Coca-Cola’s market in Nepal and Bhutan. Could you please elaborate on the commonalities and differences you have witnessed in these two markets?

The market in Bhutan is small in terms of its population. That’s the one major difference I would say. The common aspect in these two markets is the love and affection we have been receiving from consumers, retailers and distributors. Now, this is important. Both these markets have gone through tough Covid-19 challenges for the last two years and similar sentiment has been reflected in our business also declined in both the markets during the last two years.

Earlier you mentioned about investing further in Nepal. What are the challenges for multinational companies like Coca-Cola in operating in Nepal?

We started our plant in Nepal many years back. Currently, we have two plants – one in Kathmandu and the other in Bharatpur. The products available in Nepal are manufactured here itself. Coca-Cola has a good experience of operating in Nepal so far.

As a responsible multinational company, we only expect that there is good level of governance and support in the country. Similarly, there has to be a stable environment in terms of taxes and policies so that businesses can make plans accordingly and invest in Nepal. If policies are unstable, plans that businesses make today may not be feasible tomorrow. Unstable tax policies and other rules may turn the investment environment unfeasible.

Over the last few years, we have seen Nepal making good progress in terms of stability. Ever since I came to Nepal, I have seen rapid expansion of infrastructure and there have been reforms in policies. Companies like Coca-Cola can really have a large impact on the country’s trade and overall economy.

Can you shed light on some of Coca-Cola’s future plans in Nepal?

We continue to offer Nepali consumers a choice of beverages. All Coca-Cola products in Nepal are world class in quality. We want to offer more options to consumers in Nepal. As part of providing innovative choices to consumers, we have recently launched Fanta Apple in Nepal. Similarly, we also want to give consumers pack options and that is why we launched the Kanchu pack.

Coca-Cola has been supporting the mountain clean-up campaign in Nepal for the last three years. How has the experience been?

I think it is a very noble cause. While these mountains attract a lot of adventure seekers, they leave some of the waste across mountains due to the difficult terrain. Somebody has to take the responsibility to ensure that mountains, which are a priority for every Nepali, remain clean.

It is great that Nepal Army has taken this initiative in coordination with different government organizations. We are glad to play our role as a corporate partner in this campaign. In fact, Coca-Cola Foundation has been a key partner since the inception of the campaign in 2019 and we will continue to support such noble causes.

Are there any other Corporate Social Responsibility activities that Coca-Cola is involved in?

Water is a key ingredient of our beverages hence we are strongly committed in our Water Stewarship projects where we have jointly worked with WWF Nepal, SmartPaani and Water Aid on water restoration and replenishment Recycling of Coca-Cola bottles is another priority campaign of the company. We look forward to continue working in such projects for the betterment of Nepal and Nepali people.

The Coca-Cola Foundation was started in 1984 and is part of the Coca-Cola Company. The Coca-Cola Foundation has invested in environment, women empowerment and community projects. The Coca-Cola Foundation has been investing consistently over many years in Nepal and will continue to do so.

Is there any message you would like to convey to Nepali consumers?

We will always give our consumers products of the best quality. We always make sure to listen to our Nepali consumers so that we can provide them with better options in the future.

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