This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Pep(si) Talk

Chief Executive Officer
PepsiCo India.

Most Exalted Madam
Your Highness, this is to remind you of the last meeting where you had asked me to chalk out a way forward for the company in the light of increased oversight of the courts over our operations, interference by environmental groups, and – increasingly – concerns expressed about the effects on health of our products.
I have, accordingly, decided to focus on particular issues and possible solutions.
In the first place, it’s likely – now that the courts have ordered an investigation - that we can no longer bribe, threaten, or pull enough political rank to stop serious investigations being launched into the pesticide content of our products. It's most unlikely that, as in the past, we can successfully continue to disobey court orders and obfuscate the issue. This means that we will have to both discredit the accusers so that the findings will be lost in a fog of accusations, counteraccusations, and white noise, and also find a way of pitching the so-called “negative points” of our products as winners and USPs. 
We should immediately hire a private detective agency to dig up all possible dirt on the Centre for Science and Environment and most of all on its director Sunita Narain, who has apparently begun a personal crusade to expose the fact that our products contain unacceptable levels of pesticides. We need to find everything we can target her with. There should be no mercy. She is trying to affect our profits, after all. If nothing can be found we could explore options to frame her. I am attaching a short list of organisations which I think can serve our purposes. 
It is of course true that the amounts of pesticides in our product and that of our competitor have increased very sharply over the last few years. But that is the price to be paid for the sake of cutting costs enough to make a profit. It's estimated that we make only a 900% profit on every bottle of soft drink we sell. If we had to actually clean the water we use of all pesticide residues the profit might fall to 800% or even 700%. I should point out that this would be unlikely to go down well with our head office.
Whereas right wing Indian columnists had been successfully bribed in the past to pass off our product as standardised, unfortunately, these same columnists are now badly compromised over their earlier support to the invasion of Iraq and for setting up special economic zones. No one really believes anything they say any more and they have become a liability. 
Also, we have to confront the accusations that we are sharply depleting groundwater levels in order to create a premier product catering to the rich. Of course we are, and we're getting the water free. We have to protect our access to this water. Otherwise our profits will again take a hit. This can only be managed by large scale bribes to local politicians whose business it then becomes to protect our access to the water. In the meantime, we can continue to pass on the toxic sludge left over in our factories to local farmers as "fertiliser" to mollify them about the water. We should also launch a PR campaign saying that we are recharging the water table at a greater rate than we are discharging it. However nonsensical it sounds, we will find the media willing to back us up on this one. We are, of course, more chic and camera friendly than unshaven farmers and wild-eyed activists.
Then, we have to meet the "health-related issues" head on. We have to remember that this is India and we can easily find doctors who can be paid to say that Pepsi is actually good for health, but there is the unfortunate fact that the Internet has brought to people the knowledge that retrograde institutions worldwide have banned our products. 
Therefore, I suggest we turn the issue on its head. We pitch the health damage as a USP. We say, yes, our product contains pesticides, but all this does is kill off germs and parasites, so this is a positive thing. We say loudly that, yes, our product does contain carbonic acid that destroys tooth enamel, and does contain empty calories - but we say, drink Pepsi, accept the damage, rebel against society! You drink alcohol, you smoke to proclaim your rebellion, drink Pepsi!
As far as that goes, I also suggest we begin a new advertising campaign. We can, in the aftermath of the World Cup, no longer use cricketers, of course; it would be the kiss of death. Instead, we should use Salman Khan. He's popular among young people and he can say, "I shoot blackbucks, I run over and kill people with my SUV, I get drunk and beat up my girfriends and competitors, I get away with it all. I drink Pepsi!"
At the same time, we must build bridges with our "competitors" from Coca Cola. United we stand, divided we fall. We must join hands to crush this wimpish attempt to make us conform to "rules" and "regulations".
Hoping for a quick response and a large raise of salary,

I remain, 
Your most obedient slave
A S Likker
Public Relations Officer 

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