There are many who mouth the slogan, customer
is king, but few who actually bring it into practice. Tetra Pak India, the liquid food
packaging solutions company, can be said to be one of these.
Working with customers is not new for Tetra
Pak, whose entire marketing effort has been centered on helping the customer promote their
products. The company is already well known for its joint sponsoring of events,
exhibitions and promotional campaigns that help customers'' grow their businesses. The
focus, always, is on safety, freshness, naturalness, longer shelf life and convenience of
the customer''s products, albeit assured by Tetra Pak packaging.
It has suitably fine-tuned its product
offerings, in line with market demands, addressing market compulsions. Now it has gone one
step further -- to the extent of restructuring its own organisation to make it more
"We can only grow as fast as the
customer," believes the new managing director at Tetra Pak India, Igor Akimov, as did
Lars Nygren, the managing director before him, and Lila Poonawalla, before Nygren,
underlining the new initiatives taken to put this credo into action.
The company, which began operations in India
as a 100 per cent subsidiary of Tetra Pak International, a Tetra Laval company, in 1997,
first came up with only one packaging solution in India : the Tetra Brik Aseptic cartons.
Fruit juice and edible oil were the two applications that found wide usage, and to a
lesser degree, milk, despite Tetra Pak''s efforts at extolling the virtues of UHT (ultra
heat treated) milk packed in Tetra Brik- assured quality of milk in tamper proof
packaging, and longer shelf life in non-refrigerated conditions.
Despite much effort by Tetra Pak, it did not
find many takers in the milk industry -- convinced, though they were, of the benefits,
cost was a constraint. It made milk that much more expensive. Convenience or not, the
Indian milk consumer simply didn''t bite. The product had failed to meet Tetra Pak''s own
founder, Ruben Rausing''s thumb-rule : "a package should save more than it
Yet milk had to be addressed, India being the
largest milk producer in the world, with an annual production of 81 billion litres, only
14 per cent of which was processed. Milk was too large a market to be ignored.
Thus the offering of a cheaper alternative, Tetra
Fino Aseptic, a lower cost solution, but with the advantages intact -- made up of the
same six layer packaging that prevents the penetration of light and air into milk, thus
preserving it for longer periods of time, un-refrigerated. Only, this time it wasn''t the
stand up carton, but in pouch form, thinner, using less paper grammage (no paper board),
using less expensive machinery, and hence was, on the whole, a more affordable
"In India, most of the milk operators
are regional players, and do not need the higher shelf life offered by the thicker Tetra
Brik cartons, " says Jaydeep Gokhale, manager, promotions and communications.
"For the regional operator, the less expensive Tetra Fino Aseptic is a more viable
Within a year of the launch, Tetra Fino
offtake reached 400 million per year , of a total of 750 million packages produced, although
much of the production of Tetra Fino has found its way into exports for China, which seems
to have an inexhaustible demand. So much so, Tetra Pak will be setting up two Tetra Fino
plants in China, investing 15 million dollars, to cater to the demand.
The Tetra Fino project in Takwe near
Pune, was conceived as one that would cater to the global market, and all development on
the Tetra Fino product has come from out of there.
In India, Tetra Fino has found quick
acceptance among the likes of the Andhra Pradesh Dairy Development Corporation and the
Karnataka Milk Federation, who find the solution more "affordable," as compared
to the Tetra Brik, and have witnessed a resultant increase in the milk offtake , after
opting for this packaging.
This year, Tetra Pak India will come out with
a third packaging solution, the Tetra Wedge Aseptic, which is again a low cost
solution similar to the Tetra Fino, but will address the non-milk segment. Slated to be
positioned as a ''new age'' packaging for youthful end users, the Tetra Wedge Aseptic will
be used for packing new and trendy drinks like iced tea, fruit juices, energy drinks and
Simultaneously, the company has set about
restructuring its own working to make itself even more customer focused.
Key accounts have been identified, and
account managers assigned for each of these key customers. It is the responsibility of
each of these key account managers to study the customer''s business, his market, the
market forces, needs, difficulties, so as to understand the compulsions, offer suitable
solutions and participate in them. -- the idea being, if the customer is helped to grow,
the company will also grow.
"Unlike a salesperson, the key account
manager goes beyond mere sales. He holds responsibility for helping the customer grow his
business, not just pushing his company''s products. So he must understand the business, and
the market of the customer. His attitude has to be, ''I am your partner in growth,''"
says a company official.
Teams have been built around these key
account managers, drawn from different functions across the organisation. Accordingly,
every person in the organisation is geared to be more customer-aligned, so that the whole
team will act in tandem to meet the needs of the customers, thereby assisting in providing
speedy service and solutions.
Tetra Pak even proposes to help finance
customers'' investment needs in adopting Tetra Pak packaging, or to upgrade their
equipment. "We can use the financial muscle of the parent company to help our
customers," says Akimov. "We are prepared to help with the technology, with
marketing , even with finance." As one company official put it, "The objective
is to make it difficult for the customer to say ''no'' to our products."