Coca-Cola India names TKK Krishnakumar as president, Kini leaves

Coca-Cola India replaces Venkatesh Kini with TKK Krishnakumar as president of its India and South West Asia business unit


Venkatesh Kini will remain with Coca Cola India until the end of July to ensure a smooth transition for his successor T KK Krishnakumar. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/ Mint
Venkatesh Kini will remain with Coca Cola India until the end of July to ensure a smooth transition for his successor T KK Krishnakumar. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/ Mint

New Delhi: Coca-Cola India on Friday announced that T. ‘KK’ Krishnakumar will take over as president of the company’s India and South West Asia operations from Venkatesh Kini. Krishnakumar is currently chief executive officer and South West Asia regional director of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd, the company-owned bottling unit. The appointment is effective 1 May.

Kini, who has been president of the Atlanta-based beverages company’s India and South West Asia business since 1 July 2013, has quit. “I have decided to go back to the US and look for opportunities outside,” said Kini, who will continue for three more months to handle the transition.

Kini moved to India in October 2012 as senior vice-president from the company’s global juice business, and went on to head the Indian arm after his predecessor Atul Singh moved to a global role.

While Coca-Cola did not specify reasons for Kini’s exit, two people in the know indicated that falling sales was the key reason.

“KK (as Krishnakumar is popularly known) is uniquely qualified for this role, having successfully led BIG’s (Bottling Investments Group) operations in India and South West Asia since 2009. He is a strategic, well-rounded leader, and has been a catalyst for expanding our portfolio and driving growth in every position he has previously held,” said John Murphy, president-Asia Pacific Group, The Coca-Cola Company.

KK joined company in 2004, and has advanced through a series of leadership roles.

His current role will be split. Coca-Cola has decided to appoint Christina Ruggiero as CEO of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages. Ruggiero is currently chief procurement officer for the Coca-Cola System in North America, and president and CEO for Bottlers’ Sales & Services, LLC.

Vamsi Mohan, who currently serves as BIG’s region director for Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia, will take over as South West Asia regional director for Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, the company said.

This is the first time in the history of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, which operates 24 bottling plants and covers about 65% of bottling operations for Coca-Cola in India, will get a woman as its chief. Prior to joining Coca-Cola, Ruggiero was vice-president (procurement), for Diageo Plc, leading procurement and supply chain teams globally.

Coca-Cola has been under pressure in India, and globally, for the past few quarters, and has announced plans to move to a lean organizational structure and build a “total beverages portfolio” tapping “emerging trends”. On 25 April it announced that it would cut about 1,200 jobs as it expands its savings target amid falling demand for fizzy drinks globally.

“As outlined by our president and chief operating officer James Quincey a few weeks ago, The Coca-Cola Company is designing a new operating model to support the next stage of our transformation into a growth-oriented, consumer-centred, total beverage company. Key components of this new operating model are a revitalized organizational capability and better system alignment to ensure that optimum execution multiplies our marketing plans and investment,” said Murphy.

Coca-Cola’s sales in India and south west Asia, which includes markets like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, “dropped by a low single digit” during January-March 2017, according to the company’s global results announcement earlier this week. During the same period last year, the company reported an 11% growth. During the full year 2015-16, its profit in India fell by about 6% while sales were flat.

In India, Coca-Cola has been trying to focus on non-carbonated beverages like Vio (milk-based), Zico (packaged coconut water), among others for the past couple of years, but sales are yet to pick up.

The company, which announced in 2012 that it will invest $5 billion in India by 2020 for capacity enhancement among other things, has run into objections from local communities in southern India over the use of ground water in the recent past.

“Indian market has tremendous growth potential, and we believe the revitalized system leadership structure that we announced today will enable us to continue consolidating India as one of the most important growth engines for The Coca-Cola Company globally,” said Irial Finan, president, BIG.

Murphy said the company expects to come out of short-term headwinds soon. “We hope to come back to double-digit growth rates in three years,” he said, adding that the company might look at pricing metrics in India to cater to consumers at every price points

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