How to transform a business in record time

For many of us, 2020 was like traveling to the future. We’re not crazy: I read a study by consulting firm McKinsey a few days ago that found that, this year, digital transformation accelerated by five years. We work, live together and buy as we would in 2025. In months, we had to change the inertia of our biological clock to adapt to a futuristic reality. And I speak as a human, of course, but I also speak as the president of a company the size of PepsiCo Alimentos México.

Being in charge of one of the largest food and beverage companies is a daily challenge. We are responsible for guaranteeing employment to more than 40,000 people. Our operations are not minor: we generate the equivalent of 0.4% of this country’s GDP. The numbers are staggering when you have to make key decisions in historic moments.

And when the future comes to you so suddenly, the question is not what to do in the short, medium and long term, but how to make that long term become your immediate reality. It is about, literally, accelerating the future so that the future does not eat you up and does not overtake you.

Perhaps the most important lesson we learned is to stop believing that for a huge and complicated problem, an equally huge and complicated solution is always needed. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the most effective solutions begin at the human scale. This framework of thought helped us to cover the first needs, taking a step beyond what was required and putting people at the center of our strategy.

So far we are encouraged by the results: in a year in which, according to INEGI, up to 6 million jobs will be lost due to covid in Mexico, at PepsiCo we have been able to keep our workforce, protecting even more those who are vulnerable to the pandemic. Not only that, but we also created new alliances to be able to temporarily integrate employees from other sectors into our ranks.

In addition, we launched #NoBajesLaGuardia, an internal communication program for the proper use of personal protective equipment and to generate contagion prevention habits, especially among our front-line staff. We also doubled our ability to serve a hotline, a telephone resource for medical, legal and financial assistance for PepsiCo employees and family members living under the same roof.

We have also applied this human-scale thinking to relationships with our clients. Social distancing and quarantine affected our contact at all levels and it was essential to think about how we could continue to be close to all of them. One of our most successful initiatives was Mi Tienda Segura, which was born with the purpose of helping small businesses stay open and with all sanitary measures. With other companies, even being our competitors, we joined efforts to install more than 50 thousand protective acrylics in the shops, in addition to offering them other care supplies. The result? We have identified more than 378 thousand clients who have increased their sales by at least 10% during the contingency.

Of course, our agenda would not be complete without bringing this human vision closer to the communities where we operate. In May, the global PepsiCo Foundation contributed $ 5 million to the benefit of more than 70,000 Mexican children and their families, to give them access to food rations during the pandemic. In addition, our local brands and the PepsiCo Mexico Foundation contributed another 700 thousand dollars to the Food Bank network to expand the number of meals to be distributed in the most vulnerable areas of the country.

Finally, and although it may be counterintuitive, but one of the tools that most served us to generate solutions on a human scale has been the big data. With this type of analysis, we were able to respond almost immediately to changes in consumer behavior by adjusting frequencies, micro-targeting with geolocation to find sales opportunities, optimizing our e-commerce conversion funnel and securing stock on key days to improve sales online shopping experience.

All of this is part of an initiative that we already had before the pandemic and that emerged in response to changes in the way we think, develop and serve our clients. However, we never believed that we would have to accelerate its process as we did in 2020.

This is the story of how the challenges faced by the pandemic led us to transform in record time to protect our employees and generate solutions that maintain the growth of our business and the communities that surround us. But above all, it is the story of how we managed to emerge stronger. The pandemic continues, it is true, and it is not clear when it could end, but it is up to us to know how to recognize the opportunities of this crisis and exploit them, always along the same lines: taking care of our people, our clients and the communities in which we operate. And, above all, take care of Mexico.

Roberto Martinez is president of PepsiCo Alimentos México.

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