Latin America relies on AB InBev, an ally performing as an agent of change in the territory, able of generating progress leveraging on sustainability
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many previously unknown conditions, at least during our lifetime, which have pushed Latin American’s best traits to the surface along with the leadership of companies such as AB InBev, disrupting their surroundings toward an inclusive future, able to create progress within the territory, assigning intelligence and logistic resources to purposes beyond market operations, evolving into a transformative vision.
Carlos Eduardo Lisboa, Zone President at Middle Americas for AB InBev, explains in detail the company’s role within evolving circumstances.
From your perception, what’s the outlook in Latin America during the current phase of the pandemic?
The Latin American market never stops surprising us, as it is a resilient territory. The pandemic had a strong impact on every economy in the world, nevertheless, our territory’s reactivation is happening faster than what we expected due to its emerging economies with several business sectors contributing to this recovery and due to these cultures with higher adaptability to crisis management.
As it happens in every country, it will take some time to bring closer certain gaps left by the pandemic, but we are actually witnessing a high index of recovery in home consumption and investment from different sectors, which makes me an optimist about the territory’s outlook.
Which challenges is the company currently facing?
There are two main challenges that companies have been facing. The first one is that, besides recovering our volume through the activation of new necessities and occasions that came up as a result from new habits brought by the pandemic, we still must close -in an innovative way- gaps which are still open; for example, the reconstruction of spaces and events for social life is key to our beverage categories.
The second big challenge we face is the impact left by COVID-19 in supply chains worldwide, resulting in scarcity of commodities and goods for production, as well as challenges in logistic processes. This has caused an unusual alteration in costs and product availability, challenging price and inventory stability in different industries.
AB InBev in Latin America has been one of the companies with an interesting post-pandemic recovery, which factors have been key in these results?
There are three determining factors in these results. One of the most important is the way in which owners’ culture -which has always differentiated us- has come up front in a moment of crisis to display a highly autonomous, brave and innovative team, resourceful when working in conditions of scarcity and with high adaptability, reacting with the quickness and creativity of an entrepreneur, no matter our size.
The second factor is the role we assumed as we faced our communities’ needs. As a leading enterprise, we take seriously the commitment to support the countries we operate in during the worst phases of this pandemic; we help to accelerate the recovery process by offering our logistic and commercial strengths to support the countries where clients, partners and consumers operate. This strengthened the ties with our main stakeholders significantly.
And the last, the soundness we possess to rebuild our strategy, centered in understanding our consumers’ and clients’ new necessities to transform our business toward a new context. We focus on developing affordable brands and packaging in such complex times, economically, driven by a solid innovation agenda in order to serve new occasions, accomplishing also an increase in innovations in 2020 compared to previous years, prioritizing our business model’s digitization.
What specific actions is AB InBev developing to support the territory’s recovery?
First of all, it was key to strive toward our own business’s recovery, knowing we are a highly relevant business within the local contexts we operate in and that our reactivation means the recovery of thousands of businesses and families working hand in hand with us through our value chain: our farmers, business partners and thousands of small convenience shop owners, among the most important.
For the last two years, we offered authorities our logistic strength to distribute supplies and our creative force to accelerate the vaccination process, we brought entertainment and company to our consumers during the lockdown, we prioritized the technification and training of local farmers, and we have protected more than 50,000 direct and 60,000 indirect jobs from Mexico to Peru.
Without a doubt, our main focus has been in helping storekeepers and clients become prepared for this new future, not only developing programs for our most affected clients, which are bars and social establishments, but by thrusting the digital development of our entire client base through an impactful transformation of our own business.
During the worst part of the pandemic we developed the Tienda Cerca platform (‘Nearby Store’) in less than two months, which digitally connects our clients with consumers in their vicinity, developing their delivery service. Today we have more than 1.3 million storekeepers in Latin America connected with BEES, our new platform for digital sales, helping them get closer to these new technologies and optimize their processes. Through BEES, we have brought -at our storekeepers’ disposal in seven countries- a marketplace to easily find many of the most important categories to create value in their businesses, and we’ve also developed financing services to alleviate their cash flux; a whole ecosystem which not only contributes to our clients’ individual recovery, but also helps them in being ready to become a fundamental part of the territory’s economic recovery.
How has AB InBev developed this transformation culture being a very established company?
Previously, I addressed the importance of having a culture that, from its roots, would keep alive the principles of transformations and that generates in each member of the organization a clear sense of ownership. We have built it this way for decades, in a way that we have already a basis for a different reaction during critical times.
Besides the culture, it is very important that structures, processes and goals go hand in hand with this mentality. Despite our size, we want to become lean and lead transformation, that’s why it’s important we maintain leveled structures to ensure flow, to have flexible processes able to ensure speed, and to set goals aiming to challenge the status quo. As an example, during the pandemic, this allowed us to rearrange into multidisciplinary teams around our consumers’ and clients’ main necessities, this way we’ve accomplished agility, creativity and focus on the right initiatives.
Finally, in multinational companies, transformation comes -in great measure- from maintaining a borderless world where we can learn from success in other markets, accelerating our acting capability.
In the actual context and in your opinion, which points are mandatory for sustainability in today’s businesses?
In essence, businesses must have an organizational structure that constantly promotes transformation, thus becoming always prepared to create the future, even during critical times.
The current context and future are very challenging, and trends are arriving at a more accelerated pace each time, that’s why businesses today need to be more tech-based, and they need to increase their competencies in insights and data analytics as fundamental resources to achieve growth, and accelerate their innovations agenda.
Which are the company’s priorities during 2022 in order to sustain these results?
In 2022 we want to keep sustaining our positive momentum, and for such we’ll be bringing continuity to our actual focal points, increasing the best of our scale and our transformative velocity.
We’ll keep focusing on transforming our portfolio to maintain the new spaces achieved during the pandemic, but also leading those to be recovered with reactivation.
We’ll keep betting on digital transformation, using the power of data to keep strengthening our environment and providing a better fulfillment of our clients’ and consumers’ necessities.
We’ll also keep running in a community-centered way, being an active part not only during recovery but also in the long-term development of our territory to keep fortifying our purpose of creating a future with more reasons to give a toast.