Managing director for South-east Asia
Preeti Razdan knows that in a pandemic, adaptability and swift, decisive actions are key. As managing director of South-east Asia at global beverage alcohol company Diageo, Razdan drives the company’s strategy and operations across diverse markets. Previously, she led the development and execution of the region’s financial strategy as well as spearheaded multifunctional transformations in processes, systems and organisation as Diageo Asia Pacific’s chief financial officer.
“Our goal is to grow the business while making a positive impact through sustainability programmes that range from working with educators to promoting awareness and behaviour change for more responsible drinking,” says Razdan. “More critical at the moment is our drive to support bars on the safe reopening of business and looking at the security of our own supply chain.”
Key to this approach are the complementary initiatives, Raising the Bar and CleanServe. The former is a global, two-year, US$100 million (S$134.2 million) recovery fund that supports pubs and bars affected by Covid-19. CleanServe was launched in 393 outlets in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam and provides targeted support for businesses in the hospitality sector. This includes helping to pay for the physical equipment they need to reopen, including hygiene kits, and facilitating cashless transactions.
“We noticed that, as different markets began opening up, people were looking for new ways to connect and socialise safely. By providing access to free digital support, technology, training and equipment, we aim to help bars safely open their doors again,” says Razdan.
At the height of the pandemic, Diageo Singapore worked with FoodBank Singapore to donate over 1,000 meals to vulnerable communities across the country while supporting small food businesses and hawker centres.
Diageo’s multi-pronged response is testament to its adaptability, which it has demonstrated amidst changing customer sentiment – particularly among younger drinkers – about alcohol consumption, wellness and the environment.
“Our markets are shaped by long-term consumer, economic, cultural and social trends, and the regulatory environments. We have seen an increase in consumers choosing to drink better, not more,” says Razdan.
Diageo is also venturing into the non-alcoholic space. Last year, it acquired a majority stake in Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit. This July, as part of its grain-to-glass ethos, the company announced its and the world’s first-ever 100 per cent plastic-free, paper-based spirits bottle. Biodegradable and fully recyclable, it is made entirely from sustainably-sourced wood and will debut with Johnnie Walker in early 2021.
“It reflects Diageo’s spirit to push the boundaries of innovation in sustainability,” says Razdan, “and this at a time when environmentally-conscious consumers, including our long-time consumers, are increasingly discerning about what the brands they adore stand for.”
As it innovates, Diageo continues to advocate for responsible drinking in the region with a targeted Smashed theatre-based programme for young people and the DrinkIQ quiz, which promotes moderation and has reached over 2.4 million people across the Asia-Pacific region.
It also assists communities by providing access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene in water-stressed zones such as Myanmar. The company just launched its largest single project with WaterAid to provide access to safe drinking water for communities in peri-urban Yangon.
Diageo’s significant strides towards gender equity have also reaped several awards such as its win last year in the Diversity and Inclusion category at the Annual Business Awards by the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore. Its goals are both macro – becoming a gender-equal company by 2023 – and micro – male employees are equally entitled to 26 weeks of fully-paid paternal leave.
“Our long-term commercial success and financial sustainability depends on creating a positive impact on society, wherever we live, work, source and sell,” says Razdan. “For our business to be sustainable, it needs to create enduring value for us and those around us.”
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