A unique taste of corporate culture in Vietnam with Suntory PepsiCo’s CEO

The seasoned CEO shares his secret of building a multi-cultural working environment that combines American, Japanese and Vietnamese mindsets.

Uday Shankar Sinha became the CEO of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam in October, 2015. After two years of working in Vietnam, the Indian CEO opens up about his experience of promoting good corporate culture at a multinational corporation as well as his secret of building a unique working environment that combines three different cultures. Suntory brings in a Japanese culture of ‘quality excellence and trust’, PepsiCo is renowned for its ‘Drive for results’ and Vietnam is known for its ‘Can Do’ attitude.

Three cultures, one vision

1. Suntory PepsiCo was named one of the top three most trustworthy beverage manufacturers in Vietnam this year, and was also recognized as one of the highest corporate tax payers in the country. What are the secrets to these achievements?

We consider our solid foundation of ‘Drive for Excellence’ and ‘Growing for Good’ as the key to success.

As a multinational corporation (MNC), Suntory PepsiCo is proud of our MNC culture, which was established based on ‘performance with purpose’, ‘care for environment and care for society’, sustainable growth by encouraging Diversity, Transparency and Trust.

Besides making it into the top most trustworthy beverage manufacturers, Suntory PepsiCo has continuously been in the top 6 FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) companies with the best working environment in Vietnam. Each employee has full freedom to speak with truth and candor.

2. How can Suntory PepsiCo create a unique corporate culture after the merger of American PepsiCo and Japanese Suntory?

Suntory and PepsiCo merged in 2013, adapting the best of both American and Japanese cultures. Interestingly, since then, no conflicts have occurred as we share a common vision.

Instead of looking into the differences, we promote our similarities. While PepsiCo looks forward to “Performance with Purpose”, Suntory focuses on “Growing for Good”. We both strive for sustainable development by protecting natural resources, caring for our employees and caring for the society we live in.

I always keep in mind that a company’s success is not just because of an effective business model or modern equipment. It is also the contribution of each employee in the corporation. We have built a very unique corporate culture at Suntory PepsiCo with the Japanese “Yatte Minahare” spirit, or “Go for it” in English, but the deeper layer means “Failure is an option. Fear is not”.

Yatte Minahare – Go for it – Let’s experience

3. Can you explain more about the “Yatte Minahare” spirit?

Yatte Minahare means "Dare to dream, dare to win". It is a spirit followed by the founding fathers of Suntory Japan. They dared to take risks and even after some failures they continued to build on their beliefs and now Suntory is a $26 billion global organization! “Yatte Minahare – was the slogan of Suntory's founders and has become one of the core values of Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam as well. Each employee is encouraged and empowered to live fully, embrace challenges, go beyond the limits to become pioneers of new ideas and strive for continuous improvement through real working experiences.

I personally always try to find a win-win solution to achieve a target and at the same time to be able to satisfy our consumers. Don’t chase after success, let success follow you for success only comes to those who dare to dream big. I encourage our employees to think out of box and be open to the fact that all ideas will not succeed. But it's important to learn from failures and not make the same mistake twice. This is the guiding philosophy of Suntory worldwide.

Honesty – Authenticity – Integrity – Love

4. As a seasoned leader and businessman, what is your secret to running a corporation with such a unique working environment?

My first rule is to respect every employee and respect the local culture. Building Talent comes with both giving respect, sometimes being tough but at the bottom of it all interactions are accompanied by kindness.

My simple rule can be wrapped up in one word HAIL (Honesty – Authenticity – Integrity – Love). When you treat people with respect and integrity, and express your kindness, I think you will be able to earn their trust and respect.

5. Having worked at PepsiCo for such a long time and in many countries, what do you think about the corporate culture in Vietnam? Do you find any difficulties with the working environment here?

My work has taken me to over 25 countries. With 17 years working at PepsiCo and Suntory, the biggest lesson I have learnt is: “Embrace the changes. Where there is no change, there is no progress.” Change is the only constant and I follow the words of Mahatma Gandhi "Be the change you want to see!"

I love Vietnam and Vietnamese people. I come from India so I thoroughly understand the culture of Asian countries. In Vietnam, people always look up to the elders and have strong family connections. Vietnamese always care for each other. That’s why, at Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam, we appreciate teamwork. Employees work closely with each other to achieve goals and targets. We reward team wins more than individual success.

We always encourage employees to have a work-life balance since family and friends are important in Vietnam.

In addition, we also feel a responsibility to helping the people in need in Vietnam. There is a charity program founded and run by Suntory PepsiCo employees. Over time, we have raised over VND8.4 billion (nearly $370,000) to support poor people and different aspects of building homes, eye operations, heart operations, provide clean drinking water in remote schools and hospitals, etc.

6. What is your most memorable experience from working and building a corporate culture for Suntory PepsiCo?

After the merger of Suntory and PepsiCo, I knew that many employees were concerned about conflicts between the two different companies, two different cultures. However, after 4 years, when we look back on the journey, we all feel satisfied. For me, this is the best experience I have had during my 17 years working at PepsiCo and Suntory PepsiCo.

I’m proud that we have a strong team and cooperate with each other smoothly to make the right decisions for Vietnam's market.

We are now the number one non alcoholic beverage organization in Vietnam with 36 percent market share of the LRB markets and have a richly diversified portfolio of CSDs, Packaged Water, Ready to Drink Tea, Energy Drinks, Juice Drinks, Sports Drinks and Ready to drink coffee. Our brands like Pepsi, 7Up, Mirinda, Mountain Dew, Sting, Aquafina, Revive, Tea+ Oolong and Tea+ Matcha and My Cafe coffee are lived by every Vietnamese because they trust our quality and the brands live up to their promise.

This is our biggest satisfaction.

CEO Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam in an interview on the sidelines of the APEC Summit 2017. Source: PwC


By VnExpress