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Innovation leads transformation

28 July 2020 – They say that the way you overcome challenges defines your success. And in the corporate world, you don’t get a bigger challenge than joining Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) at the beginning of a global pandemic. However, that’s exactly the situation that Agatha Masemola found herself in… and true to form, she’s thriving.

As the new Strategy and Performance Director, Agatha started her new career at a time of uncertainty, fear and anxiety, but using her trademark combination of innovation and forward and creative thinking, she has lost no time in honing in on her core mandate of growing the business.

“In whatever I do, I always strive to do something that adds value to society,” Masemola says.

Her career has been an interesting journey spanning different industries, but one golden thread runs through it: strategic transformation. She started in Biochemistry where she transitioned from a full-time researcher with publications in peer-reviewed journals to managing a biotechnology fund investing in biotech start-ups. She transitioned into the business world by joining Deloitte Strategy & Innovation, where she led commercialisation of several ventures across various sectors, including financial services, and oil & gas, to name a few. Later, as a Strategy Consultant and Chief of Staff for Absa Corporate and Investment Banking, she played a key role in the build-out of the Corporate Banking business in key markets across Africa.

“Moving from a technical to a commercial focus was a great opportunity to use my innovative and creative thinking to help companies build businesses of the future,” she says.

When it comes to CCBSA, her vision is to harness the power of data to infuse a company steeped in tradition with the knowledge that will allow it to build entirely new businesses. “To predict what business will look like in the future, we need to consider what we know now, what is happening around us, and consumption patterns of consumers in the future. It is almost like looking through a crystal ball, understanding megatrends and asking the question, what will be the impact on the future of the business should these trends materialise?”, she says. “And with the world’s economy in a state of flux and further decline due to the Covid-19 pandemic, what better time is there for us to break new ground?”

As she sees it, her role is to partner with fellow executives in the business to address critical questions:

• What new businesses should CCBSA invest in today for future growth?
• How do we diversify our current beverage portfolio?
• How do we leverage our existing assets and network to maximise revenue generation?
• How do I help CCBSA transform its business model to easily adapt to change and the resilience required to survive shocks?

She believes that this transformation will be driven by a powerful combination of innovation and technology; and leveraging the current infrastructure to unlock value.

When it comes to innovation, CCBSA is perfectly placed to take advantage of global trends that show a definite shift in consumption towards more healthy, nutritious and sustainable beverages. Our market leading position in Sparkling beverages provides an excellent platform to diversify into other lucrative beverages by targeting consumers with differentiated propositions across various market segments.

Whether it is challenges that can be predicted, like economic cycles, or black swan events, like COVID-19, Agatha is a firm believer in the power of foresight and leveraging digital technology to execute. Whatever the nature of the challenge, technology must be at the heart of it.

Agatha attributes her success to a diverse background and expertise; but also, she was brought up in a home where there were no gender-defined roles. Whoever had the time or did it best, did the job. This grounding has served her well in a patriarchal workspace. “You are not a woman, you are a professional,” she insists. It is this attitude, coupled with her ability to reinvent herself and adapting to different environments, that will be the driving force behind an exciting new chapter of growth for CCBSA.