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CEO Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam: “Failure is an option, Fear is not”

Update: December, 27/2017 - 11:15

CEO & GD of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam – Mr Uday Shankar Shinha with staff

Having worked for PepsiCo in many countries before assuming the charge of CEO & GD of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam, what are the differences between the working environment in Vietnam comparing to other regional countries from your point of view?

Since the beginning of my career with PepsiCo, I have had the experience of working in 6 different countries including India, Thailand, China, Taiwan, UAE and now Vietnam. My work has made me interact with people in over 25 countries and I have gained valuable experience on culture diversity and geo political differences of each place I have been too.

I really love the country and people of Vietnam. While I am here, I see the great potential for economic growth with annual GDP growth rate of 6.5% to 7%. The headroom for beverage market growth is huge thanks to the young and growing population with increased Consumer Confidence Index. However, I can say that above all, Vietnam in general and Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam in particular offers the best working environment. I say this not only because of the corporate culture but because of the career development opportunities offered to each employee. By focusing on the similarities and respecting the differences of the two companies, PepsiCo and Suntory, we are embracing the best of both worlds and making it go in harmony with the Vietnamese culture and traditions. Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam has succeeded in establishing a unique corporate culture, creating a friendly, open and dynamic working environment where everybody works towards a common goal and looks at the future positively. We have been able to grow at a CAGR of +15% over last 10 years because of this unique culture. In my opinion, this is something very special and different from what I have experiences in may last 17 years of working with PepsiCo and Suntory. This truly differentiates the working environment of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam from other PepsiCo operations in the region.

Over 99% of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam’s employees are Vietnamese. Do you face any difficulty in managing these employees vs those from another culture?

I have been working far away from my homeland India since January 2001. Therefore, I could visualize some difficulties in my new job. Especially, because of the leadership position of Suntory PepsiCo in Vietnam. We command 36% LRB share more than twice our nearest competitor! Naturally, when you arrive in a country, for a CEO role in a company which has tasted success for the last 23 years, most people would hold a skeptical view about what value add the new leader is going to bring to them. The first question my subordinates had in their mind was: “How would he lead the company?” For me, the most important thing was to understand the Vietnamese culture and the working style of my Vietnamese associates. I started with appreciating their strengths and making them confident of taking risks. I made them more focused on data based decision making and made sure people have a more collaborative style of working as opposed to all functions working in silos before. This worked very well and together we were able to achieve the sustainable growths and goals of the company. Thus making Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam have a great working environment where everybody respects each other and has fun together.

How does Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam make it possible to harmonize the American culture of PepsiCo, the Japanese culture of Japan and the native traditional culture of Vietnam?

The correct way to phrase this question is how does Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam create a unique corporate culture that embraces both American culture (drive for results) from PepsiCo and Japanese culture (care for society) from Suntory. The answer is simple. Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam married the “best of both worlds”. Rather than focusing on differences, we always look for similarities between the two. For PepsiCo, the vision statement says “Performance with Purpose” and for Suntory it’s “Growing for Good”. Despite being expressed in different languages, the meanings are the same. Both strive for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and focus on protecting the environment and developing the human resources in a steady way. Suntory’s value systems are anchored in the philosophy of “Living in harmony with the nature” and “Sharing the profit with society”.

The unique corporate culture also comes from the multinational-culture of United States and Japanese organizations. At the beginning of the merging, many employees were concerned about the culture conflict. However, after 4 years, we have been able to focus on promoting the similarities, respecting the differences and embracing different perspectives. As it goes on, the journey of changes has brought us the greater results. In SPVB we firmly believe that without change there is no progress.

In addition, we also pay a strong attention on building the Vietnamese cultural traditions in SPVB through different programs like the Helping Hands program. This is a fund created by SPVB’s employees nationwide to support charity initiatives. For us, being a good citizen includes but not limits to obeying the laws and fulfilling the duties towards his or her family and corporation. Being a good citizen also means to actively contribute towards building a better society for everyone.  Therefore, for whatever amount of charity money collected by the employees from the 10 Helping Hands clubs under Helping Hands fund, the company would match the amount, thus doubling the corpus to support the local community. This helps us live the Vietnamese moral code “the good leaves protect the worn-out ones”. Till date, over VND 8.4 billion has been donated through 110 programs with the participation of over 5,500 volunteers. The money has been used for eye operation, heart surgery, building charity houses and helping the social centers.

Is product diversity and experience enhancement the long-term development strategy of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam? Besides these two factors, which are the core values that help Suntory PepsiCo to stand out in the current beverage market?

Since the launching of our first two products in Vietnamese market – Pepsi and 7UP –  in 1994, we now have 13 popular soft drink brands widely loved by the customers. The diversification of product portfolio is the competitive strength of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam. We cater to the changing taste and new demands of the consumers. It is a must for the FMCG companies in general and beverage companies in particular to have product diversification. As you can see that besides the sparkling soft drinks, Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam also has energy drink, ready to drink tea, bottled drinking water, juices, sports drink and canned coffee to enhance the experience for consumers. Beside diversification of products, the quality and hygiene is always put first. Thanks to the consistency in quality and value, Suntory PepsiCo has been able to maintain the love and trust from the consumers for the company’s brand portfolio. Besides, the success of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam is reflected not only in the revenue and profit figures but also in supporting the society.  We are proud of our positive contribution to the Vietnamese community under philosophy of "sharing profit with Society".

How has Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam implemented the “Sharing profit with Society” recently?

Since its establishment, the company has always been aware of the corporate responsibility towards the community and believes that contributing to the sustainable development of the society also means greater success. In pursuit of this business philosophy, Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam has been focusing on three areas including supporting the Environment, Supporting the Youth and Supporting the community in healthcare and doing other charities through Helping Hands clubs. In particular, in 2017, the Company continued to accompany the Dynamic competition program as a co-organizer. Here we sponsor the youth challenge of top 10 universities for the best entrepreneurial idea. The company also expanded the water education program “Mizuiku – I love clean water” for the children. Here we run the education programs in primary schools on the importance of clean drinking water and make sure the schools have water filter stations for all children. Besides this we participate in school construction, scholarship awards, eye operations and cardiac surgery for poor patients across the country. In addition, Suntory PepsiCo continues to co-operate with the Central Council of Ho Chi Minh Young Pioneer Organization in supporting the "Green Summer" voluntary program and “Examination Season Assistance” program. This is the third consecutive year that the company cooperated with the Council to implement this program. These two programs have helped to build 28 clean water systems in Bac Ninh, Hanoi, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Tay Ninh, Ben Tre, Can Tho and Tho Chu island in Kien Giang across the country. Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam also employs 3,000 employees and supports about 6,000 indirect associates from service suppliers.

 If you can choose 3 words to define a successful business operation, which are the words that you would go for?

For 17 years of my engagement with PepsiCo and Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam, I have always believed that the success of a business comes from the trust and cooperation between the leadership team and the employees. If I have to wrap up in 3 words I would say: Courage, Collaboration and Conviction differentiate a successful operation from others. The leadership has to show courage in taking bold steps, make sure we treat people with respect to help them collaborate with each other and always believe in the vision. The conviction of making things happen is a must. With these three things working in harmony any organization can do wonders.

CSR Program: “Mizuiku – I love clean water” 

 

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