In PH, Coca-Cola GM feels right at home
A Kenneth Cobonpue dining table in Chile marked Diego Eduardo Granizo’s first encounter with the Philippines.
Granizo, the newly appointed president and general manager of Coca-Cola Philippines, admits that he barely knew anything about the country when his wife chanced upon the table in 2008.
“When we were in Chile, my wife fell in love with this one particular dining table, and she said, you know this is by a designer named Kenneth Cobonpue. And little did we know he was a Filipino designer. Actually, she even bought a couple of things that are from a Filipino designer,” Granizo tells the Inquirer.
It thus came as no surprise that, when Granizo, his wife and two kids arrived in the country, the first thing they did was to travel to Cebu to visit Cobonpue’s showroom.
Granizo, who is turning 46 this month, took over the helm of Coca-Cola Philippines last January, following a stint in Germany, where he served as the commercial strategy and operations director for the beverage company. Prior to that, Granizo was the franchise operation and key account director for Coca-Cola in Chile from 2009 and 2010. He also served as general manager for the Ecuador operations in 2007.
The Ecuadorian in Granizo immediately felt at home in the Philippines, whose culture, language, weather and, to some extent, food, are fairly similar to what he grew up with. Even his family seems to agree.
“I usually gauge my transitions not only on my side but also that of my family’s. That for me is the most critical sense of gauging whether the transition was good or bad,” Granizo says.
“I have to send my family ahead of me, so they actually landed here back in November last year and I just joined them in January. It was the first time we have separated as a family to start the transition. But they managed to do it so well that, two weeks into the new school, my kids were already having friends invite them to a movie or to go out. Not only that, but my kids accepting the invitation was another proof of how they’re getting comfortable,” he explains.
Even his 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter’s transition to an international school in the Philippines had also worked out well.
Granizo says being in the Philippines gave him an “inspiring and very energizing” feeling about the country’s smiling, energetic and youthful population and expanding middle class, which was in stark contrast with Germany, where more than 55 percent of the population was close to 60 years old.
“The other funny thing we have observed was that the people look Asian, but you start reading the street names and they’re in Spanish. And then when you talk to people, they speak perfect English. And I was like, wow, it’s a weird combination, but it makes our lives easier because we understand basically everything that’s been spoken to us,” Granizo recalls.
Even the warm weather did not bother Granizo who was born in the highlands of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
“Personally, I love [the weather here]. The lack of sun has a big toll on my personality. I need the sun. I prefer warmer weather. Actually, our weather in Ecuador is quite similar to the Philippines, particularly in the coastal zone, where it’s very warm and humid. I was born in the highlands of Quito so we get the benefit of the Andean breezes. It’s quite temperate with our normal temperature of around 24-25 degrees all year round. It’s very similar to Tagaytay as a matter of fact,” Granizo explains.
After three months in the country, Granizo has already been to Cebu, Tagaytay and Davao, and will soon be visiting El Nido, Palawan.
Enthralled with the country, Granizo is still focused on key strategic plans for Coca-Cola Philippines, hoping to better cement the beverage firm’s already strong foothold in the local market.
Center of excellence
“What I would want to do in the region … is to have the Philippines recognized as one of the centers of excellence in a few things, namely, in how we manage our beverage portfolio, how we innovate, and how we engage external stakeholders. When you look at what the Philippines has been doing, there’s so many excellent examples of great marketing. There’s a lot of things we can build on,” Granizo says.
Last month, “we had [a program] with President Aquino on Coca-Cola’s 5by20 commitment globally, which aims to have 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020. The Philippines needs to be a big contributor to that growth.”
The program will allow Coca-Cola to address the most common barriers to success that women face in the marketplace. It will also offer women access to business skills training courses, financial services and connections with peers and mentors. The company also hopes to build the confidence the women need in successfully running a business.
In the Philippines, the program took the form of the Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) program, which aims to empower some 200,000 Filipino store owners by 2020.
According to Granizo, one of the “nice things” about the Coca-Cola Philippine team is, it is a very young, energetic and highly diverse group, which dovetails with the global firm’s thrust for gender equality. This mirrors the kind of business opportunities the company can further tap in the country, where the population is “very young and very much in line with the Coke target.”
As a business, we further need to support the growth model of The Coca-Cola Company, Granizo says. “The Philippines, being one of the top markets, needs to be a big contributor to that growth. Actually, this part of the world in general is becoming a big growth engine for us. So what we need to do is put in the right strategies that can mobilize all of our stakeholders from the government to the communities we work in, as well as suppliers and employees.”
To help achieve these targets, Granizo brings with him two decades of work experience with the Coca-Cola Company, along with degrees in mathematics, industrial engineering and business administration.
Granizo graduated magna cum laude with a BS Industrial Engineering degree from University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, and finished cum laude for his Master’s degree in Business Administration at the Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The engineering degree, Granizo explains, contributes in setting up systems and processes, and making sure that these are efficient and well-structured.
Meanwhile, as Coca-Cola continues to dominate the beverage market, Granizo notes that this is no reason to become complacent.
“We continue to embrace and engage competition. This is the thing that keeps us on our toes. The worst thing that can happen to a big company like ours is complacency…. We are the leader and we will continue to be the leader. But it also takes a lot of effort to keep it that way,” Granizo says. KS
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