By Hugh Pope Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Some take the high road to the markets of post-Soviet Central Asia, like Karel van Brink, who is racking up his second million air miles as Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s chief salesman in the region. Others, like American soap-factory entrepreneur Paul Gussin, have to tramp the low road, across frontiers manned by corrupt border guards armed with machine guns. Market builders of all stripes -- including an Iranian company whose detergent bears the name "Barf" (the word means "snow" in Persian) -- are struggling for the same goal along the old Silk Road to China: building a brand-name presence in the republics south of Russia that until 1991 were domains of the Soviet Union. Led by the likes of Coca-Cola Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and
Colgate-Palmolive, these marketers brave Kafkaesque bureaucracies and novice consumers to gain a beachhead in a region of 55 million people, where huge oil-and-gas reserves are fueling a rapidly growing consumer market. In an area where big global brands were unknown until a few years ago,these marketers struggle to dispel customers' quirky beliefs. Two years ago, at the ceremonial opening of a Coca-Cola plant in Kazakstan's capital of Almaty, a young Kazak journalist sprang this question on CocaCola executives: "In Soviet times, they told us that if you put a tooth into a cup of cola in the evening, it would have disappeared by the morning. Is that true?"
Today Coke's red-and-white logo, virtually unknown a few years ago, is everywhere in Central Asia, and Coke is the region's best-known brand. "Even the prime minister of [war-torn] Tajikistan is calling us, wanting to know when we are going to come," boasts Ahmet Burak, Coke's general manager for the Caucasus and Central Asian Republics region. The division claims sales growth of 100% a year or more since it started business in 1993. Coke won't give dollar figures, but in 1997, its business grew 137%, and in 1996, the rise was 305%.
If you need a good return but also want a safe investment where would you go ? In times of trouble where do you go .Our county just republished a paper from the 1930's the headlines were about the crash in the economy and business failing, bread lines, etc and a small insert, a filler type article, quoted the local Coca Cola bottler as saying that their business was doing very good . It is a fact that the movies did well in the thirties it was an excape from the reality of their daily lives and the shortage of money did not seem to deter the sale of Coke or movie tickets . The third world countries that are short on cash will most likely be akin to our country in the thirtys. In time of stress some relief is essential and a good cold Coke is a strong posibility. notbuffett