The difference in business strategies - US and India

(Christina Ruggiero is the CEO of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd – one of the leading FMCG companies in India. She relocated to India to operate out of HCCB’s headquarters in Bengaluru in mid-2017. She is now the only woman CEO of a top 5 FMCG company in India. Her first job was as a cryptologist for the National Security Agency, U.S. Navy.)

In the past, I have approached this topic by outlining the complex cohorts, difference in demographics, stages of economic development and tastes and preferences of consumers in the two countries. But this time as I sat down to write, I was struck by the level of similarities between the two populations.

A couple of reasons should be able to explain the departure in my thought process. One, over the last nearly 12 months of traversing the length and breadth of India – my new home - I have seen a large swathe of Indian families and Indian consumers. I have met some amazing people, several of the 20 lakh retailers that comprise our network and a few thousand of our 8,000 strong workforce. Second, this being the International Week for Women, I must confess that I am a little preoccupied with the idea of a women’s influence on economy and society, whether in India or US.

So let me quickly and succinctly, make the case of practicing the same business strategies, no matter if in Atlanta or Ajmer.

Women invest almost 90 percent of their earnings in their families and communities and this is consistent across the world. For us in business, this translates into a simple strategy – if we can play a useful part in women being able to take care of their families and communities, we will have a reason to exist.

Second, women globally, now control more than $20 trillion in spending. In India, let alone traditional commerce, just in e-commerce women are estimated to be fueling online shopping worth more than USD 3 billion (excluding travel and ticketing). Yet most businesses continue to vastly underserved women.

Third, women represent the fastest-growing, most dynamic economic force in the world. This trend is on an upward climb in India too. That means women have an economic impact 50 percent larger than that of the United States and more than twice the size of China and India’s economies combined. Yet our strategies around impacting or talking to this segment can at times, border on tokenism. Thankfully, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages has been alive to this reality. So much so that we have a real chance of running our newest, yet to be launched Factory at Sananda, Gujarat, with 40% women workforce. A first for any beverage company in India.

And finally at a purely personal level, the narrative around how much women can influence a society, remains the same – whether in India or US.

I have learned some of the most valuable lessons of my life from women. I grew up in the US, in a den of lionesses (sisters, aunties, cousins all led by my grandmother) who taught me that of course every day is women’s day and every day is children’s day. It was empowering and challenging as most often support (and criticism!) of women comes from other women.

I see the same in India. Women in India are phenomenal in taking care of their children and their families. They also have a disproportionate share in influencing the thought process of the growing-ups.

No wonder that the government of the day and their schemes are targeting women to spread the message of cleanliness, child care, nutrition, education and much more.

So as a business leader I am going to offer that all that we need to strategize for, is merely to provide opportunities and a facilitating environment to women. Let us try and be the enabler and catalyst for someone’s journey forward.

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