Home >Mint-lounge >Features >Manu Anand | A sweet deal

The Willingdon Sports Club in Mumbai is halfway between two Cadbury India offices—the old heritage Cadbury House on Peddar Road that is soon to be sold, and the new towering Indiabulls Finance Centre office that the multinational will move into. The club is old world and rather charming, which makes it a perfect venue for lunch with the new president (India and South Asia) of Mondelez International, Cadbury India Ltd.

“It’s been a hundred days and I am enjoying it," says Manu Anand, who moved to the city in August to take up his new job after almost a lifetime in Delhi and 19 years with PepsiCo. We discuss the intense media speculation and the buzz that his move caused. “I was head-hunted for the job," he says. “My wife Rajika and I discussed it and we thought, why not? After almost 20 years with Pepsi, it was either now or never," he says.

We are sitting in the Willingdon Golf View Bar on the first floor of the club, with a great view of the rolling greens. Anand is a golfer, though he hasn’t yet had occasion to play on this course. The 55-year-old is elegantly turned out in a formal white shirt, checked blazer, beige trousers and brogues. He looks trim, though his chocolate-eating has increased significantly since he took the job at Cadbury, he says.

Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
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Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint

After we have ordered our drinks, lime soda with salt and sugar, and grilled pomfret, Anand settles down to talk about the Cadbury Mondelez story. It began when Cadbury was acquired by Kraft Foods in 2010. Two years later, in 2012, Kraft Foods split into Kraft and Mondelez, with the latter retaining ownership of Cadbury. Today, Cadbury India, which formally goes by the name of Mondelez International, also retains the Cadbury label. While Kraft is US-based and inherited the grocery items and processed food brands, parent company Mondelez, with $35 billion (around 2 trillion) in annual sales in 2012, is the world leader in biscuits and chocolates and is a strong player in chewing gum, candy and coffee (Mondelez did not give the India figures separately).

“It gives us an opportunity to diversify beyond being just chocolates," says Anand, adding that the brand launches of Oreo and Tang have been successful, and that the company plans to consolidate them, then look at further launches from its basket of international brands. These include cookie brand Chips Ahoy and chewing gum brand Trident.

Anand, an alumnus of St Stephen’s, Delhi, where he studied physics (1975-78), went on to complete his chartered accountancy at AF Ferguson & Co. in Mumbai. In 1983, he joined paint company ICI in Kolkata, where he became a financial controller. In 1994, he joined PepsiCo in the Frito Lay division in Delhi. It was a fledgling division, and Anand, who had joined as chief financial officer (CFO), would go on to grow the food business virtually from scratch.

“We were a small group in those early days; there were two or three of us shuffling roles, doing everything. It gave me a chance to learn about fast-moving consumer goods marketing and I grabbed it," says Anand. The young finance executive did his CFO duties during the day; evenings were reserved for retail visits and studies of consumer reactions to ongoing promotion schemes.

The foods business grew phenomenally. In 1998, Anand became managing director of Frito Lay India, moving to Bangkok, Thailand, in 2007 to head food and beverages as business unit head of South-East Asia, taking over as chairman and CEO, PepsiCo India, on his return in 2011.

In the meantime, the grilled pomfret has arrived, with mashed potatoes and elegantly arranged greens and carrots, so we take a break from the sweet.

I ask him about his views on compliance and on learnings on compliance issues within the company, given the excise duty violations case slapped on Cadbury India earlier in the year—the directorate general of Central excise had accused Cadbury India of seeking to evade excise duty by wrongly using a tax exemption available to companies that had begun production in factories in Himachal Pradesh by a certain date. “Compliance is not negotiable. It is something that we have to factor into everything we do and it’s something we have to give the right amount of energy and time to," he says, maintaining that ensuring compliance with all the laws that apply will, in the long run, benefit all the stakeholders of the business.

Anand says the size of the snacks market in India is around 45,000 crore, which includes biscuits, salty snacks, chocolates, candies and gum. The biggest challenge is to keep a product affordable—in other words, to keep pack prices between 5-10, which is typically what consumers are prepared to pay for the snacking experience. Also, to ensure the right kind of distribution. This becomes more complicated for chocolates, which need a cold chain. “We are present in 20 lakh (two million) outlets in India, to ensure the last-mile consumer experience is what we aim for, but it’s complex," he explains.

The meal is all but over, but there’s tiramisu on the menu. This is Anand’s favourite dessert, rather appropriately so, since both coffee and cocoa are big with Mondelez. So we order two, along with two coffees, as Anand talks about his interest in cocoa.

“We work with many cocoa farmers, as many as 66,000 different cocoa farmers in the south of India," he says, explaining that any industry which can successfully integrate backwards with agriculture has the right recipe for success. “Socially, you are doing the right thing, you are building the right chains and you are getting the best quality product for your consumer," he says.

While the short-term demand may be slower, in the long term, snacks and chocolates are a business that will continue to grow at a good rate, he says. “Besides," he concludes, “the lovely thing about chocolates is that people eat chocolates when they are happy, and when they are not happy."

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