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Moments of (liquid) pleasure

Moments of (liquid) pleasure

T he Cambodia Beverage Company (CBC) welcomed its new general manager to Phnom

Penh last month. Prakash Wakankar, a native of India, sees a bright future for

the bottler of Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Sarsi, Ice Cream Soda and F&N Soda

Water.

"I'm very, very excited. I think there are lots of opportunities

for us in Cambodia," said Wakankar, who recently relocated to Phnom Penh from

Coke's Nepal operation.

Prior to his Kathmandu posting, Wakankar worked

for the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer. "I wasn't in the fizz biz at all," quipped

CBC's new GM as he spoke to the Post during a visit to the firm's high-tech

bottling plant along the banks of the Tonle Sap.

Wakankar sees the key to

the company's expansion tied to the ability to expand soft drink distribution

nationwide.

"Its just a question of time before we can start getting into

the provinces," said Wakankar, "and that will be the key to the success of CBC

as well as peace and stability in Cambodia."

Wakankar also says that CBC

has received the full support of government authorities.

"The response

has been excellent," said Wakankar. "We've been very, very happy over the last

nine months. The government has been very supportive, understanding and very,

very pragmatic."

Coca-Cola reentered the Cambodian market in April 1992

after an absence of 18 years. Under a U.S. $10 million investment program, one

of the country's largest in recent years, Cambodia Beverage constructed a

bottling factory on Route 5 just north of Phnom Penh and is now distributing

soft drink products throughout the capital and several other provincial

capitals.

While CBC representatives have visited all of Cambodia's

provincial capitals, distribution and marketing arrangements have not been

finalized.

Wakankar said that the firm has sent three shipments of soft

drinks to Battambang with 460 cases per shipment. However, one of the major

problems is that trucks are stopped along the way and required to make payments

at both unofficial and official checkpoints. Wakankar estimates that it may cost

CBC as much as $800 extra per truckload to deliver product to Battambang.

A Coke marketing team visited Phnom Penh recently to look at ways of

expanding product distribution. According to Wakankar the public will be seeing

an increased number of red-colored ice chests around town with the Coca-Cola

logo emblazoned on the side.

"People want their soft drinks served

chilled," said Wakankar. "Its better served cold, both for health and taste

reasons.

"Ice dilutes the taste and pleasure," he added while noting that

"we always say we're in the business of selling moments of

pleasure."

According to Wakankar, the Ministry of Industry looks on CBC

as a "modern employer." The firm, which employs 161 Khmers, offers a no-cost

canteen to employees as well as a free clinic providing basic health treatment

for all staff.

CBC's plant manager Anthony Wong explained how the firm

draws water from its own wells for a three stage treatment process to insure

water quality. Coke's international standards prohibit the firm from using river

water.

"Our water treatment plant produces 63 liters of clean water per

minute," said Wong.

CBC warehouses brim with bottles waiting to be filled

with fizz. Wong said that he had enough bottles on hand to ship out 2,400,000

per month given sufficient demand, all of which are being recycled.

When

asked why CBC didn't have any Coke bottles with the logo written in Khmer,

Wakankar explained that they had tried to get a translation of "Enjoy" for use

in designing a Khmer logo but that the 15-line paragraph they got in return had

thrown a small wrinkle in their plans.

"We're still working on it," he

said with a smile.

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