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
"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
"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.
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,
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
While CBC representatives have visited all of Cambodia's
provincial capitals, distribution and marketing arrangements have not been
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
"Ice dilutes the taste and pleasure," he added while noting that
"we always say we're in the business of selling moments of
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
"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.
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.