Vijay Verma, Executive Vice President (EVP) and Head of Retail and CPG Business, HCLTech

Vijay Verma is an Executive Vice President (EVP) and Head of Retail and CPG business at HCLTech. A global business voice, Vijay has a proven track record of transforming growth experiences and leading profitable charters for his Retail and CPG clients, which include several Fortune 500 companies. Vijay specializes in creating business value through inclusive culture, sustainable business models and strategic transformation programs that increase effectiveness, efficiency, and customer delight – thus imbibing a culture of cohesive growth, together. Vijay is one of the founders and early adopters of HCL’s infrastructure business in the North America and is responsible for the business-line becoming synonymous with global leadership, service excellence and a hallmark of virtue. Vijay is also an opinion columnist and a featured author for the CEOWORLD Magazine, Global Leaders Today Magazine and business alike, voicing his views driving influential impacts and creating harmonized ensemble.


The retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry is the canary in the coal mine for the state of the economy, often bearing the initial impact of economic fluctuations. Highly attuned to shifts in consumer behavior and preferences, it offers a window into the broader economic currents and trends.

At the outset of the year, the industry contended with a myriad of challenges: from the aftershocks of macroeconomic events and regional conflicts to the ongoing journey of post-COVID recovery and the complexities of supply chain disruptions. Yet, with the consumer goods market forecasted to expand to $22.12 trillion in 2023, boasting a robust 14.23% CAGR over the next five years, and a resurgence in consumer confidence on the horizon, there is a palpable sense of optimism.

However, to not only sustain but also accelerate this growth trajectory, a bold and visionary approach is essential. This is where the strategic role of mergers & acquisitions becomes pivotal, serving as a key mechanism for CPG companies to realize their ambitious business objectives.

A Strong Focus on Maximizing Customer Experience

As retail and CPG sectors recalibrate their positions, there is a growing emphasis on customer experience (CX). The industry has long since recognized CX’s instrumental role in shaping purchasing decisions and building enduring brand loyalty. But implementing it requires the adoption of a suite of strategies. This includes crafting personalized interactions, integrating omnichannel touchpoints, and harnessing technology to elevate the overall customer journey.

The essence of enhanced CX lies in the seamless omnichannel experience, ensuring uniform and fluid interactions across diverse platforms. Such omnichannel strategies are not just about customer convenience; they are powerful drivers of higher conversion rates and sales, reducing barriers in the purchasing process and solidifying a positive brand image through customer advocacy.

Moreover, the adoption of digital-first strategies yields profound customer insights. These insights empower businesses to make strategic decisions, securing a competitive edge in the marketplace. While the initial investment in omnichannel strategies might seem daunting, their long-term benefits are undeniable. They bring about operational efficiencies and position businesses to seamlessly adapt to the ever-changing tapestry of customer expectations, thereby future proofing their operations.

The Need for Strategic M&A to Achieve Scale

As is the case with most industries, retail and CPG sectors must also make good of the trends to optimize opportunities and unlock new horizons. For retail and CPG companies, a business imperative is to maximize their revenue turnover and gain larger market share as quickly and sustainably as possible. Achieving this is no easy matter as it lies at the crossroads of multiple distinct but convergent initiatives – from offering personalized and omnichannel customer experiences to driving unique product innovations and from adopting automation across the business to enabling sustainable, global business practices.

But the leading enabler of growth continues to be the pursuit of strategic mergers and acquisitions.

In fact, strategic M&A are the cornerstone for organizations in the retail and CPG sectors aiming to scale their operations with agility and precision. They enable swift and expansive growth, empowering companies to seamlessly assimilate mature businesses, penetrate new markets, and thereby broaden their customer reach and market share.

The pursuit of economies of scale through M&A is not just a tactical move but a strategic one, yielding significant cost efficiencies across production, distribution, and marketing channels. This approach effectively reduces per-unit costs, simultaneously enabling a diversified portfolio of products that cater to a wide array of consumer segments and preferences. In the wake of a merger, we witness an elevation in operational efficiency: streamlined processes, optimized supply chains, and the elimination of redundancies are just the tip of the iceberg.

Furthermore, M&A opens the gateway to advanced technologies and innovative processes, propelling businesses to the forefront of competitive markets. This amalgamation of resources and capabilities fortifies a company’s position in the industry. Beyond the immediate benefits, cost synergies, encompassing procurement and administrative economies, significantly boost a company’s financial health.

Diversification, another key aspect of strategic M&A, serves as a bulwark against market volatility, enhancing the resilience and adaptability of businesses in ever-changing economic climates. Moreover, the infusion of skilled talent from acquired companies catalyzes innovation and operational excellence. The ultimate fruition of successful M&A ventures is evident in enhanced financial performance, which not only captivates investor interest but also paves the way for sustained, long-term growth in an increasingly competitive landscape.

M&A Challenges in Retail and CPG

While M&A in retail and CPG sectors offer a whole host of opportunities and possibilities, they do come with several common challenges. Combining different organizational cultures, systems, and processes can be complex as achieving a seamless integration requires careful planning and execution to avoid disruptions to day-to-day operations. A few of the most pertinent challenges posed by M&A in retail and CPG include:

  • Supply chain integration: Merging supply chains can disrupt production and distribution while coordination challenges may impact timely product delivery to customers.
  • Brand harmonization: Mergers often cause some initial issues in establishing the new brand identity, making it paramount to achieve consistency in integrating diverse brand portfolios.
  • Merging IT systems: Integrating IT systems and technologies is time-consuming and costly. Also, incompatibility issues may affect operational efficiency and customer processes.
  • Employee morale and retention: Uncertainty in mergers can impact employee morale and retention. Clear communication and efforts to address concerns are essential for a motivated workforce, especially during M&A.
  • Regulatory compliance: Navigating complex regulatory environments in retail and CPG is challenging. Hence, ensuring compliance with various regulations, especially across regions, is crucial to avoid legal issues.
  • Financial risks: M&A involves significant financial investments. Therefore, overestimating synergies or underestimating integration costs can have devastating impacts.
  • Cultural differences: Organizational culture differences can lead to conflicts and hinder collaboration. Addressing these differences is essential for successful integration.

But these challenges and concerns are a necessary part of the journey towards growth. And in most cases, when handled correctly, result in immensely successful market and revenue growth. A few of the major successes in the last couple of years include the 2021 acquisition by Coca-Cola of the sports drink company BodyArmor for $5.6 billion. This move helped Coca-Cola to tap into the fast-growing sports drink sector by targeting health-conscious consumers. The acquisition was a part of Coca-Cola’s strategy to compete with PepsiCo’s stronghold in the sports drink market, particularly with Gatorade.

Similarly, in 2022, Mondelēz International committed to nearly $2.9 billion for Clif Bar & Company, aiming to extend its influence in the rapidly growing bar industry. In the same year, the Ferrero Group, a major confectionery player, revealed an acquisition deal with ice cream manufacturer Wells Enterprises. This tactic granted Ferrero the ownership of prominent frozen treat brands like Blue Bunny and Halo Top. And a global leader, Nestlé, acquired the “Seattle’s Best Coffee” brand from Starbucks for an undisclosed value with the sole aim of bolstering Nestlé’s coffee portfolio.

The Role of IT Service Providers and System Integrators

In the current market landscape, IT service providers and system integrators play a pivotal role in the post-M&A success of retail and CPG companies. As M&A activities reignite growth and reshape market leadership, the integration of technology and strategic business processes becomes a strategic business imperative. Legacy players in the retail and CPG sectors, while focusing on top-line growth, are increasingly recognizing the need to balance short-term revenue targets with long-term strategic shifts, and this is precisely where IT service providers and system integrators can step in as vital enablers in this delicate balancing act.

Such service providers are not merely facilitators of technology integration but are architects of a new digital ecosystem that harmonizes legacy systems with cutting-edge innovations. Their expertise in seamlessly integrating technology systems, harmonizing business processes, and ensuring data migration and cybersecurity is pivotal in the post-M&A landscape. Moreover, as newer, innovative startups continue to disrupt the retail space with agile marketing techniques and enhanced consumer journeys, established companies are compelled to adopt new-age strategies and technologies. In this scenario, IT service providers and system integrators become indispensable partners, empowering these legacy companies to leverage their scale and reach effectively. They provide the technological backbone that supports the adoption of innovative go-to-market strategies, helping traditional players tap into different consumer segments and integrate new brands into their portfolios.

Moving forward, as retail and CPG industries continue to evolve and grow through strategic M&A, the role of IT service providers and system integrators becomes increasingly central. They are the catalysts and enablers of this growth, ensuring that companies not only expand their reach but also enhance their operational efficiency, data security, and market responsiveness. This symbiotic relationship between traditional retail powers and modern IT expertise is what will define the next chapter of growth in the retail and CPG sectors, driving them towards a future of innovation, resilience, and sustained market leadership.

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