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For Deepak Kaul, General Manager of Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Saudi Arabia, the best barometer of success is always his team.
“For me, people are the most critical part of the business,” Kaul tells The CEO Magazine. “It’s about asking, ‘Have I added value to my people? Have I made their lives better? And have I added value to my shareholders, before and after?
“Are their capabilities improved from when you took over? And have you made your contribution in terms of environment, and connecting with society, and making the lives of the people better than what they were before you came into the job?’ So it’s a multinational arena on which you need to assess yourself.”
As a leader, Kaul prioritizes the formation of relationships across the company with all of his staff regardless of their rank. He believes this cultivates a culture of inclusivity.
“I connect with people very well at different levels in the organization, be it a worker on the shop floor, a salesman in the market, a truck driver who’s delivering my products or a board member,” he says.
“I challenge the status quo, which has always helped me to find innovative solutions,” Kaul continues. “And when you come up with an innovative solution, your chances of success become that much bigger. I invest lots of time and money in building the capabilities of my people.”
Having worked with Coca-Cola for close to two decades, and with the Saudi Arabia division since 2020, Kaul has learned precisely what it takes to helm a successful business – specifically, a transparent dialogue with staff about the direction of the company.
“As CEO, when you take over a business, you need to have a very, very clear purpose,” he says. “You need to have a vision and then ensure that it is communicated the right way to every function in your organization so that they all understand what role they have to play in terms of adding the value to that purpose.”
That isn’t always the case at many businesses, but for Kaul it is key.
“A lot of times the vision remains on a CEO’s laptop and does not get percolated or communicated down to the end of the food chain, because that is where the vision gets executed and that is where the rubber hits the road,” he says.
For an international brand like Coca-Cola, suppliers are indispensable, even more so when they’re establishing themselves in a smaller market, such as Saudi Arabia.
“Suppliers are an integral part of our business, as are retailers and restaurants on the front end, which puts our product in front of the consumer,” he says. “Similarly, suppliers are an extremely critical part of our supply chain. And not only our supply chain, but they are our business partners, so it’s not only a transactional relationship.”
Kaul believes it is essential to invest technology and expertise into these relationships in order for them to remain at the forefront of innovation. That allows the company to match their global competitors while also creating world-class products at the most efficient cost.
“So we invest with them in terms of technology, in terms of marketing campaigns, so that the beverage category grows, so that their revenue grows and also, in the process, we are providing the beverages that the consumers are looking for,” Kaul says.
“It’s a multi-dimensional engagement that happens with the customers, with the vendors, with the consumers and with all of our supply chain partners. A business cannot be complete without involving all your back-end and front-end partners.”
When it comes to devising innovative solutions and integrating technological advancements into their processes, Coca-Cola has been ahead of the curve for some time. From reusing water in cleaning and washing processes at their plants, to working closely with the engineers designing the wastewater treatment plants so that waste is minimized as much as possible, there are numerous initiatives that Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Saudi Arabia has been proactive setting up.
“There are lot of platforms on which the work happens, which is making the beverage more accessible to our consumers, making our operations more environmentally friendly, and thereby not only reducing the cost and becoming more productive, but also reducing our carbon footprint,” he says.
Operating in a sustainable manner is at the forefront of many decisions being made at Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Saudi Arabia.
“Sustainability of the environment is becoming extremely critical,” Kaul says. “So we work very closely with the ministries here where we’re talking about how to recycle PET going into the future, how to conserve water, how to recycle the cans. We are working closely with local authorities, our partners and stakeholders for a better shared future.”
This philosophy requires a multi-faceted approach, he says.
“There is a consumer angle, there’s a customer angle, there’s a community angle and there’s an environment angle which we need to balance out and ensure that we build a long-term sustainable, profitable, environmentally friendly business model,” he adds.
With big plans on the horizon, it’s clear that Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Saudi Arabia is set to have a strong year.
“You cannot do business alone without getting connected with the communities and the societies in which you operate,” he says. “We identified that the passion points in Saudi Arabia are sport and music, so we’ve tailored offerings to engage sports and music lovers.
“The idea is that you innovate on the product side, and you also innovate on your marketing campaign, but you cannot be successful if you do not connect with the communities and do not touch on their passion points.”