Here's a billion people. Here's 300 to 500 of those billion-plus people newly added to the middle class.

Now, how do you market your product to them?

That's a question that even a beverage giant like Coca-Cola is trying to figure out. According to The Hindu Business Line, the per capita consumption of Coca-Cola beverages in India ranks as an 11, as opposed to its global average of 89.

Joseph Tripodi, Coca-Cola's executive vice president and chief marketing and commercial officer, and Atul Singh, Coca-Cola India's president and CEO, recently spoke with Business Line to talk about the challenges and opportunities in the Indian market.

The real challenge in India is how you grow per capita consumption of our beverages, Singh told Business Line. It is low, but then again it is a function of the demographics -- we have a billion people here. And we are quite happy with the progress.

Singh said Coca-Cola is among the top 10 in the beverage industry in India, and one of its immediate goals is to enter the top five. There's reason to believe the company can do that, starting with lessons learned from its business in the United States.

Tripodi said expanding per capita consumption was to learn from mistakes made in the U.S. market -- to stop being too focused on volumes.

We probably should have been more focused on transactions, Tripodi said of business in the U.S. That's very similar in India.

Tripodi said Coca-Cola and Singh are building good complexity in India with different-sized Coca-Cola volumes, something the company did not do well in the U.S. for example, Coca-Cola makes a 1.25-liter fridge bottle in India because a 2-liter bottle will not fit in many fridges in Indian homes.

Here in India, Atul and his team -- what they are doing is building good complexity on the package side, Tripodi said. It's allowing a price point for everybody.

For Tripodi, that is the key to success in the Indian market and building on 21 consecutive quarters of growth.

We want to drive each of the categories we compete in, Singh said, and we believe there will be growth in each.

Other noteworthy points from the interview:

  • Tripodi said Coca-Cola will not follow Pepsi Co.'s lead and branch out into food and snacks. We are clear that we cannot do everything, and are going to be focused on our core -- sparkling, juice, drinks and water, he said.
  • Singh was asked about innovative retail methods in India, and he told Business Line about Coca-Cola's Parivartan program. The company takes a mobile school to the villages, and has taught 85,000 mom-and-pop stores skills such as merchandising and checking stock, he said.