Dada's Dost

The role of Coke is of a catalyst and enhancer. A catalyst brings people together and an enhancer uplifts you — Debabrata Mukherjee 

By Rwitoban Deb & Saionee Chakraborty
  • Published 6.12.16

Debabrata Mukherjee, “Debu” to friends, vice-president, marketing and commercial, Coca-Cola, India and Southwest Asia, does a Coke-e Food-e PujorMood-e (in association with Anandabazar Patrika and The Telegraph) SWOT for t2. 

Congratulations for a third successful edition of Coke-e Food-e PujorMood-e! 
Last year, when I had a chat with you guys, I said the same thing. Consumers don’t get tired of your programmes, companies do. So what happens is ek bochhor you do something, the next year you want to do something else… the consumer gets confused. They think, ‘What is the connecting thought?’

Three years back we hit upon a very interesting insight. When there are festivals, there must be food. And Puja is the biggest festival we have here… but now of course there is Id, Christmas.... If there is festival and there is food… then there must be Coke? It’s a triangle. That was the idea.

First year, we learnt a few lessons. The food zone was limiting because people want an array of food. Secondly, the celebrity addas were structured. They loved that people were there, but wanted a little free flow. So what we’ve learnt is, don’t change your winning proposition.

This year we tied up with the outlets in advance. Even before Puja happened, right from Ramazan… we tied up with 10 of the top food chains… so that there is full integration between what people hear, see and do. How else do you draw the attention? When you’re saying Coke-e Food-e, you’re hearing it on radio, seeing it in print and going to the store and seeing something else… there is a drop in transaction. But here when you see Coke-e Food-e at the store, you’re connecting the dots. We have stayed with what worked in Year One, got better in Year Two and got really, really better in Year Three and I’m certain there is room to grow in the future. The ABP connection also makes a huge difference.

The selfie piece (selfie contest) added ‘you’ in the mix. If you’re taking a selfie with Coke, it’s only you. So, the depth of connection we created with the selfie piece was also quite significant. 

The other big thing which happened was when people went to the top 200 pandals in Calcutta, they actually saw Coke. So everything came together. 

Coke is slowly becoming part of the landscape. I’m very happy with how it’s turned out!

What did Sourav Ganguly, really the face of your campaign, bring to the table?
I have known Sourav for many years. The original idea was for him to be our U-17 World Cup ambassador. It’s not because he could have been a footballer and became a cricketer instead. That’s common knowledge. Sourav is brilliant here… in this five-inch space (points to his head). If your mind tells you can win, you will win. I felt, in Bengal, Sourav is truly iconic and Coke is also an iconic brand. So as we were planning for Coke-e Food-e Pujor Mood-e Three, we thought it might be a good marriage. To be honest, in the first two years, we were so knee-deep in the football discussion, it didn’t cross our minds. It was like serendipity, you look for gold everywhere, but miss gold at your doorstep. So when I told him, ‘Maharaj, eta korley bhalo hoi na?’, he said, ‘Of course, why did you not think of it earlier?’ 

For you, Coke-e Food-e Pujor Mood-e had to start from Calcutta though, right?
I grew up in a plant, can you imagine? We had a hosiery factory on the outskirts of Calcutta (Sinthee More)… it was my grandfather’s factory. I went to Calcutta Boys’ School and then we moved to south Calcutta when I was 14 or 15. My parents still live here… Mandeville Gardens. My father is a doctor (orthopaedic surgeon Kalyan Mukherjee). I moved out of Calcutta in 1994 but one of the reasons why I wanted to do this in Calcutta was, eto lok ekshaathe chaar din you will not find in any other place.

I missed the kick-off because I was in Milan. That adda was superb (Tolly stars Parno Mittra, Payel Sarkar, Shaheb Bhattacherjee, Ritabhari Chakraborty and Arunima Ghosh, all led by Sourav Ganguly, at the t2 office on September 7).

Debabrata Mukherjee, vice-president, marketing and commercial, Coca-Cola, India and Southwest Asia, at Hyatt Regency at the finale dinner of Coke-e Food-e Pujor Mood-e in association with Anandabazar Patrika and The Telegraph. Pictures: Rashbehari Das

Do you think you’ll get a bigger platform than Durga Puja?
No. You won’t in Bengal. Chaar din dhorey Bengal aar kichhu’r jonyo bondho hoy na. There are other festivals like for example Nava Varsha… that’s a festival. It’s colourful… people are out. So if I do that, I start with Christmas and New Year and I don’t have to wait till July. I have a window in March-April. We are Bengalis and we don’t need a cause to celebrate!

You haven’t really replicated the module anywhere else…
In Delhi… during Puja. See, Year One, it does brilliantly and you want to replicate it across the country and then you fall on your face… because you haven’t thought it through. I’m a big believer in ‘don’t spread yourself thin… go deep’. Do Year One, Year Two, Year Three. I would give myself 8 on 10… humbly, now. Still not 10 on 10.

I have to also be smart. I can’t do this in 29 states. Look at the time, resources and capital involved. I have to win in one state at a time. But now the time has come to take the central thought of the programme across…. I’m a big believer in learning before replicating.

Puja will be very difficult to replicate. But Ganpati is huge in Bombay. For nine days in Lalbaug nothing happens. The third thing that comes to my mind apart from Durga Puja and Ganpati is Navratri in Gujarat. We’ve been activating it. Not in the same way.

That adda was superb
(Tolly stars Parno, Payel, Shaheb,
Ritabhari, Arunima... led by
Sourav Ganguly... at the t2 office
on September 7)

What is the scope for improvement here?
I think we’ve gotten better over three years. But we are still over-leveraged on Durga Puja, so that is a potential opportunity. Aami jodi boli we are a 365-day brand but activate it solidly for 100 days… I feel we can activate it for a longer period of time.

Secondly, maybe we can bring in more food… more outlets. We got 10 large chains, but potentially we could do more. I still feel we are a little metro focused… so, there could be a way of taking it more into the heartland of Bengal. We’ve gone to a couple of places, but we can penetrate deeper. You live and you learn. Overall it’s been a good journey.

Your resolution for Year Four of Coke-e Food-e Pujor Mood-e is...
I’ll try to be in Calcutta for the Puja! Calcutta’r Puja is Calcutta’r Puja!