Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Power of Coco-Cola

Place : Ndola
Country : Zambia

Ndola is on the border of Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo. This town is 130 kms from the capital city of Zambia, Lusaka. I am currently here sitting in a shack with an old grand-father like computer with dial-up speed worse than 1995 , by India standards ! It’s a run down place which is surprisingly the only Internet CafĂ© for miles !!

I am here on Business. My Business is that of Printing and Packaging. We have been exporting to this country for the last 10 years – but the visits were strictly to the capital city of Lusaka. But a strange phone call got me in a PRO-FLIGHT Company aircraft to the town on NDOLA. PRO-FLIGHT itself is a risky business. This small aircraft that got me here and is supposed to be taking me back in a matter of 4 hours has given me a fright. Mainly due to its size !! It is so small – that in Hindi terms – one haava kaa jokha – and this plane will be swinging to the winds tunes.. !!

Anyhow… The aircraft is the only real civilized thing here. This town moves at its own pace. Now, If I were a poet, I would be appreciating the fact that there is something poetic about such mom and pop towns. If I were someone from Travel and Living, I would be covering the arts and crafts. If I were Shakira, I would be dancing to tunes of Waka Waka ! If I were Angelina Jolie, I would be adopting kids here ! If I were the U.N. Ambassador, I would be asking for fund raising for HIV affected individuals. If I were from National Geographic, I would be clicking photographs of the beautiful people of Africa ! But the reason why I am writing this to you – its because I am THE COMMON MAN. Where according to the UN – every 3rd child dies… This place is unusually painted RED with the colours of GLOBALISATION – COCO-COLA… !!!

I come here to sell medicine boxes. But the capitalist people complain on how our goods reach the interiors only after 3 months. Or how on most days they come as damaged goods. What amazes me is that COCO-COLA fights all these problems on a daily basis, and that too not only in 1 but 76 different countries where it has its operations !!!

When at Business School I read the book, The Bottom of the Pyramid and read about E-Choupal in India… and The micro-credit extended in a country like Burma… I knew it all made sense. But to see it with my own naked eye – the economics of this whole situation amazes me. I think we are going to come to a time where the progress of a village is going to be measured by the fact if every new product launched by Coco-Cola has reached it or not !! Such is the power of an MNC !! Such is the power of GLOBALISATION. !! Such is the power of consumerism !!

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