Anar Rustemova is a commercial professional based in Kazakhstan with international experience, especially in FMCG. She has extensive experience in leading the Marketing department at Coca-Cola for more than five years, and currently, she is a co-founder of Innovative Marketing Solution, a consultancy agency. 

I know Anar from the time I’ve been interning at Coca-Cola Almaty Bottlers. After four years in retrospect and having this interview with Anar, only now I realize how my internship shaped me, understanding better my managers at that time situations, and how it’s important to prioritize certain things. 

I could really resonate with the story of Anar. We are going to talk more about Marketing, the key learnings and highlights working at Coca-Cola, and the perspective of that it’s ok not to know what you are going to do in 5-10 years.

Anar Rustemova

First, let us understand what is Marketing?

There are many different descriptions of what is marketing, but based on my experience, marketing is a broad understanding of company’s opportunities in short/long terms. Understanding what tomorrow’s consumer needs, what needs to be focused on, and where the company needs to move in order to achieve its goals.

That’s why when our local companies underestimate the role of marketing, they are missing many opportunities to perform better as they can’t estimate their full potential.

What kind of challenges do you face running a Marketing agency in Kazakhstan? How do you measure your success?

Our agency is helping Kazakhstani local companies to set the strategy and tactics for sustainable business growth. And our recommendations/ideas are the results of numeric years of experience. And the approach we use had justified itself many times in our professional life.

At the same time, we are facing the biggest challenge to make companies understand and accept the fact they need marketing. And secondly, we need to clarify what is real marketing.

We measure our success by improvements reached in our client’s business and at first stage, it’s not always business KPIs like sales volume, market share etc, but some quality improvements in their processes and the new way they treat their business.

Foundation in Marketing: from an Intern to a Director of Marketing

Definitely I’m very grateful destiny to be a part of Coke for such a long while. And you know it was really fortuity that I started my internship there. And thanks to this, I gained huge experience and skills that I helping me nowadays.

I did not expect this to take 12 years of my life. Step by step went through all the steps of development in the corporation.

Anar Rustemova

I divided my career into three blocks: Fundamentals, Strategic Experience, and Top Management. For close to five years, I’ve been getting the essence of Marketing. From 2011, I had my internship in Turkey to enhance my strategic thinking, and get prepared for a Top Management position.

If you want to grow in marketing? – I advise you to start with a corporation. It’s going to be your alma mater that will allow you to start your own company. 

 

When you look back what are the key highlights in your journey with Coke help you today?

I would highlight gaining such skills as project management, big picture view and crisis management. While these 12 years journey, I can’t give an exact number of projects launched in the commercial field. And all that initiatives managing help me nowadays to deal with my own projects.

What I appreciate the most in my corporate job was the challenge of having a big view on the situation. When you are managing your function and country, you are no more allowed to be busy with routine tasks, since you are expected to foresee tomorrow’s customers’ expectations.

And finally, I do believe that a crisis is a new opportunity. At the time of downturn, you can roll-out an efficient action plan to convert current difficulties into opportunities. Yes, you will lose at some points in terms of some KPIs, however, further on your right actions will allow you to overcome crisis more rapidly and efficiently.

Kazakhstan as a part of the global ecosystem

FMCG in Kazakhstan and our position globally

The FMCG market in Kazakhstan is developing, mainly thanks to international brands. At the same time, some local brands are also contributing. As well as our young country, the FMCG market is evolving year by year. And competition and new market players are contributing to more rapid development.

I perceive competition as a great tool to drive the market if it is healthy. For example, when MC Donald’s entered Kazakhstan it also started to extend the QSR market together with KFC and Burger King.

If to look globally we are not so big in terms of sales volume considering our population number and per capita consumption. At the same time, we are big enough in the Ice tea category as a market. On a regional level, the situation differs we are definitely bigger operation when we are benchmarking Kazakhstan with the rest of CIS countries.

Designing a local product under the global brand

Let me give you an example of launching a new product for our system – Fanta Lemonade, in which I was directly involved from the moment the product specifications were developed until the launch on the market.

We got support of The Coca-Cola Company to create a new product from scratch since there was no sufficient product globally to meet consumers’ expectations in terms of heritage and taste. The main learning from my point of view is that we can’t launch local taste under global brand, because in eyes of consumers we are a company with international brands. And consumers perceived our new introduction as another extension of Fanta.

Fuse Tea indeed wasn’t a local initiative, it was a global launch with a revised brand name. At the same time as a System we did a great job while launch and sustained successful performance that helped us to conquer consumers’ hearts.

How Coca-Cola is caring about consumers’ well-being?

To start with, in the CIS region consumers are less cautious about a healthy lifestyle if compare to Europe or the USA. At the same time being a social responsible company throughout all operations globally, Coca-Cola is caring about consumers’ well-being.

That’s why Coke reacted by providing the offer of low calories and small portions products. In Kazakhstan portfolio, we had Coke Light and Coke Zero and Coke regular has a variety of small immediate consumption SKU (stock keeping unit). Also, all Coca-Cola products openly disclose sugar quantity on each front part label.

And within the company, a healthy lifestyle is welcomed. For example, Company motivates employees to use stairs instead of an elevator to burn calories. Also, there is an internal football championship to support an active lifestyle.

Your perspective to your future-self

My daily motivation is to live at full. And I do feel I reached balance since I’m busy with job I enjoy and spending quality time with beloved ones.

Days are started differently: what I prefer is to start the day with fitness or yoga that is giving me energy for the following day.

Anar Rustemova - Coca Cola

About 5-10 years perspective – frankly I never thought so far ahead. For sure, some things were planned, however, I never put career or personal goals with strict timelines to follow. What is always driving me ahead is just a will to learn something new, to become the better version of myself day by day.