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How startups, ecommerce firms are attracting executives from Coke, Pepsi

Job portal currently has about 150 employees from Coca-Cola and Pepsi with work experience of about 10 years looking for another job.

    01 September 2015, 8:40 AM IST

NEW DELHI: It appears that the fizz may have gone out of working with beverage makers Coca-Cola and PepsiCo India. A large number of mid-to-senior level executives of the two companies are making a beeline for startups and ecommerce companies, leading headhunters said, citing a growing pool of resumes floating in the market. This is symptomatic of the situation in the fast-moving consumer goods sector in general where employees are bottled up in companies with slowing growth and yearning for change, they said.

A larger number of resumes of Coca-Cola executives, among the two beverage companies, are said to be doing the rounds, with one in five employees actively seeking change at the senior-to-mid-levels, according to headhunters.

Job portal, which focuses exclusively on mid-to-senior level positions, currently has about 150 employees from Coca-Cola and Pepsi with work experience of about 10 years looking for another job. "There is a sudden deluge of resumes from employees of a couple of FMCG companies that have not been performing well globally," said Tarun Matta, founder of iimjobs. com, which is backed by One97 Communications and India Venture Partners.

A PepsiCo India spokesperson said the company continues to be valued for its opportunities and leadership experiences.

"PepsiCo India has over a period of time built a very strong pipeline by giving people a mix of different critical experiences within PepsiCo India and internationally, and continues to do so. For those leaders who have decided to pursue a different opportunity, we thank them for their contribution and wish them all the very best," the spokesperson said.

A Coca-Cola India spokesperson said the company's attrition rate is much below the industry standards, and has actually declined 2 percentage points in 2015, compared to that three years ago. Further, in the first eight months of 2015 the company has hired 75 per cent as many new associates as it did in the entire previous year. "We are on course to add more talent to the 'new hires' list for 2015," the spokesperson said. Coca-Cola India has for many years been an employer of choice for professionals seeking a global, multicultural FMCG experience. "Several top professionals, globally and in India, serving large Indian and multinational companies, have worked at Coca-Cola India before choosing these assignments of responsibility. We pride ourselves in being a hub of talent," the spokesperson said.

"The Coca-Cola Company views India as a strategic market, with a potential to scale up and expand its business, significantly. In fact, between 2012 and 2020, we would have invested $5 billion, which is more than twice the investment that the company made over the last 20 years of its operations in India. We will continue to provide opportunity and experience to quality talent," the spokesperson said.

Executives with 10-15 years of experience in FMCG sector are looking for change also because many of these companies are undergoing restructuring, which is leading to unrest among employees, said a leading headhunter. "A restructuring exercise within a company leads to uncertainty and this is the time when most people from that company start looking out," said Ronesh Puri, managing partner at Executive Access India.

Many of the employees looking for change are drawing salaries of .`1.5-3.5 crore in their current roles at FMCG companies, according to a headhunter. "At startups and ecommerce companies, they are offered equity to the tune of five times their current salaries," he said. Executive search firm Global Hunt has placed about 50 people from FMCG companies into startups in the past six months. "Many among these are from food and beverage business. The employees from these firms become a target audience to map the pool," said Sunil Goel, managing director of
Global Hunt

. "If one employee in 100 is asked to leave it leads to a churn in the company."

A startup backed by venture capitalists tops the list of desired destinations. "It is logical for them to opt for startups as this is one of the few sectors that can pay them equivalent if not higher than their current salaries. They also get a platform to try out their entrepreneurial ambitions," said Shiv Agrawal, the managing director of ABC Consultants.

Among the senior executives of Coca-Cola who quit the company are Idi Srinivas Murthy, who joined Snapdeal as senior vice president marketing; Ajay Naqvi invested in and joined Stay Uncle; Manish Agarwal and Ankit Dhingra joined Myntra and Sudeep Bansal joined OLX. Over the past three months, PepsiCo has lost six senior people, the latest and most senior one being human resources head Samik Basu who has quit after a 14-year stint at the cola maker. PepsiCo is either merging these roles with existing ones or replacing senior roles with mid-level positions.

In addition to Basu, other executives who have quit PepsiCo include Ruchira Jaitly, senior director and category marketing head social beverages, senior director, marketingand beverage innovation Vidur Vyas and director and category marketing head-snacks Rajiv Mathrani.

These employees are also looking at the wealth creation option before switching to startups. "An opportunity to create wealth in the form of equity and to get the experience of being an entrepreneur without risking own capital are the two attractions for them," said Praful Nangia, associate partner, Hunt Partners.

FMCG companies have always been a talent hunting ground for companies in other sectors. And now, with the slowdown in the sector and many executives willing to look beyond FMCG, the choice may have just widened for other businesses. The April-June quarter has been among the worst for the beverages industry over the past few years, with both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola's sales volume growth dropping to low single-digits.