Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Coke at the end of India

It is a common mistake to equate marketing with advertising. Marketing is not just advertising, although that's one important component. Decades ago, a marketing guru defined the 4Ps of marketing - Product, price, place and promotion. In countries like India, its often distribution (place) that is the key to a business success. Getting your product to every one of the 5 million or so outlets is a monumental task, but is often the key to success. Nobody does this better than Coca Cola.

I am hardly the first person to marvel at Coke's distribution capability all around the world. Melinda Gates, for example, did it in one of the TED talks - What non profits can learn from Coca Cola. It was a brave talk - the not for profit sector often derides and holds in contempt the corporate sector. But you can't run away from the lessons that Melinda Gates draws from Coke.

Consider this

The place is Dhanushkodi, almost the very tip of India - well past Rameshwaram. Its virtually an abandoned place. Almost nobody lives here. You have to drive by a 4 wheel drive across the sands of the sea to reach there.  There is no electricity, no road, no buildings, no nothing. But a few hardy souls go there, some as pilgrims, some as tourists. And what awaits them is a shop that sells Coke. There is nothing else. You can't even get a cup of tea. But you can get a Coke.

For a fascinating account of the history of Dhanushkodi go here - its a lovely post from a fellow blogger who often comments here. It was her post that prompted me to actually go to Dhanushkodi.

About 200 hardy fisherfolk live there now. All in thatched huts on the sands. Its a hard life , for other than the catch of the sea they have to trek 20 kms across wet sand to reach anywhere or buy anything. The memory of the 1964 cyclone that destroyed the town is everywhere - see the remnants of railway station of that time.

But in the midst of this desolation, there is one sight that warms the heart - in many ways it foretells the future of India. There is only one pucca building in this place.

Its a school !