Coca-Cola India’s talent acquisition and nurturing strategy: Sameer Wadhawan

Coca-Cola India’s talent acquisition and nurturing strategy: Sameer Wadhawan


In the second of our weekly series, we take a look at Coca-Cola India’s talent acquisition and nurturing strategy. Sameer Wadhawan, VP, HR and services, Coca-Cola India and Southwest Asia, takes us through the process.

The Talent Underpinnings

We like to call ourselves a hybrid between a McKinsey and a venture capitalist. Fundamentally, our role is to make our bottlers successful. That’s where the consulting part comes in. One of the focus areas is to build the HR capabilities of bottlers – 13 family-owned businesses – through consulting. They have turnovers in the range of Rs 500 crore, but to grow themselves to Rs 1,000-crore entities, they need a different talent pool and skill set. The talent is experienced and high-quality. You need a holistic skill set to understand the business of bottlers.

Straight from Campus

For the past six years, we have been picking up the best talent for summer internship. Our interns work on live projects for 8-10 weeks, and have a mentor assigned to them under a programme, called ‘Mantra’. The acquisition of talent through the summer training programme is led by marketing, and HR is a part of this. We have an almost 100 per cent acceptance of pre-placement offers and 98 per cent retention. In the past six years, 30 young managers have become part of this talent pipeline.

Spotting Them Early

The Pegasus programme, started five years ago, spots tomorrow’s leaders, puts them through six months of rigorous coaching, assessment and class room interventions. The programme is for senior managers and general managers with 10 years-plus experience. The entire leadership team is responsible for the projects these potential leaders work on. The batch size is not more than 15 at a time. The managers are from across functions and now (for four years) across geographies. There is a direct relation between the programme and the global talent export. Our whole focus was to build the leadership pipeline and then grow them to global roles.

The Secret Sauce

A number of factors have contributed towards Coca-Cola India being a fertile ground for nurturing talent. These are:

1. The ability to provide critical learning experiences to high-potential talent

2. The ability to spot high-potential talent and create a pipeline through structured programmes

3. The focus on individuals: planning their career progression, focusing on their development areas and training them to be leaders

4. Making senior management accountable for grooming and nurturing talent

Talent Movement

The foremost challenge for talent moving from India to global operations is to sensitise them to different cultures and local nuances. We provide a lot of coaching and mentoring in this regard. We also provide regular opportunities to our people to get exposed to different cultures through short- and medium-term global projects, before they undertake overseas postings.

For talent that moves into India especially from developed markets, the initial period can be overwhelming. So we provide them infrastructure support and help them settle down. We also provide assistance to their family. Most importantly, we ensure that their expectations in terms of exposure to operating in emerging markets, are met.

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