An Unimaginable Journey: How Pepsi Beat The Odds In Romania by Aviad Meitar
The incredible story of how a group of visionary entrepreneurs got the rights to Pepsi in Romania and built a thriving beverage company
IN FIFTEEN years
“The journey described by Aviad Meitar is nothing if not intriguing. This well-written and concise eyewitness account of building an American brand in an Eastern European country offers rare insight into how a business can succeed even in the face of the most daunting challenges.”
— ForeWord Clarion Reviews
Coke and Pepsi maintain one of the most remarkable business rivalries. These arch-competitors continuously battle for market share around the world. Given Coca-Cola’s number one ranking, it is a sweet victory when Pepsi can rise to the top. That is exactly what happened in Romania, and An Unimaginable Journey: How Pepsi Beat The Odds In Romania, by Aviad Meitar, is a David and Goliath story of that triumph.
In An Unimaginable Journey, Aviad Meitar explores how the unlikely opportunity to take over the Pepsi business in Romania came to fruition. Meitar had virtually no knowledge of either the beverage industry or Romania, yet he recognized the value of bringing a first-class brand to a newly emerging market. Full of astonishing you-are-there details, the book is a fascinating tour of the challenges that Meitar and his colleagues faced in taking on a well-funded competitor, the Coca-Cola organization. Employing ancient Viking laws to their day-to-day business decisions, the team realized how suitable
they were to running a successful enterprise in modern times. The Viking laws are:
· Be Brave & Aggressive – be direct, attack one target at a time, grab all opportunities, use varying weapons of attack, be versatile and agile, don’t plan everything in detail and use top quality weapons.
· Be Prepared – keep in shape, find good battle comrades, agree on important points, and choose one chief.
· Be A Good Merchant – find out what the market needs, don’t promise what you can’t keep, don’t demand underpayment and arrange things so you can return.
· Keep The Camp In Order – keep things tidy and organized, arrange enjoyable activities which strengthen the group, make sure everyone does meaningful work, and consult all members of the group for advice.
“We grasped on to those wise and ancient Viking laws and applied them without the knowledge that our world ancestors had discovered their secrets long ago,” relates Meitar.
In the rapidly changing market environment of Romania, the cola wars were not only between Pepsi and Coke, but included a low-cost ‘B’ brand as well. Meitar provides a first-hand account of how a tenacious group of entrepreneurs navigated political, economic, management, and marketing highs and lows. His story culminates with the successful sale of the business to the second largest Pepsi bottler in the world, and the re-branding of his team to acquire the Pepsi business in Bulgaria.
Aviad Meitar was born in 1959 and grew up in a small town called Kiryat Ono, in Israel. During his childhood years he studied in the local conservatory and played the French Horn in its concert band. This made music a very special part of his life and, although he chose a different profession, he has been actively playing with concert bands and symphonic orchestras all these years.
He received a law degree from Tel-Aviv University and an MBA from Boston University. After his studies in Boston, he moved to New York, where he lived for 8 years. He joined Quadrant Management, the management arm of a privately owned investment fund called North American resources, right after its formation. It was on this company’s behalf that he started going to Romania in early 1991 and set up the Pepsi business venture there.
During his years in New York he met my wife, Ravit, and their first two children, Yigal and Ayal, were born. Soon after the birth of their second child they moved back to Israel, so that he could be closer to the Romanian business. It needed more attention than he could give being on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. They ultimately settled in his home town of Kiryat Ono. Their third son, Yiftach, was born soon after they moved there, and the three boys have been growing in the same wonderful environment he enjoyed in his youth.
Meitar has been responsible for the beverage business in Romania throughout the 15 plus years of his group’s involvement there, taking it from inception, to growth and the ultimate sale of the business to PepsiCo’s 2nd largest bottler worldwide in mid 2006.
After the sale, his group decided to pursue another bottling venture in the region, and they acquired the Pepsi franchise in Bulgaria. He is currently the Chairman of the holding company of that operation, and they are actively engaged in trying to make it another success story for the Pepsi brands.