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May 15, 2002 | 1355 IST
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Appointment of Tarun Das on Coke board irks Pepsi

Partha Ghosh & Shweta Rajpal Kohli

The appointment of Confederation of Indian Industry director general Tarun Das as a member of the US-based Coca-Cola Company's international advisory board has irked the soft-drink maker's arch-rival and another high-profile member of the industry association, Pepsi.

According to Pepsi sources, senior executives of the company met on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

"At the right time, the issue will be taken up with the chamber. For the time being, it has been decided by the company to lie low," the sources said adding that Pepsi is unhappy over the appointment as it hampers the impartial image of the chamber.

"This will weigh in the minds of people when the chamber takes up industry-related issues." Pepsi India's spokesperson, however, said he had no official comment to make.

The newly appointed president of CII, Ashok Soota, however, did not see any controversy arising out of Das' appointment to the Coca-Cola advisory board.

"I feel his appointment is a very good thing. The more we engage with international entities, the more we will learn.

Even CII will benefit a great deal out of this. It would be a great learning experience as there are so many renowned personalities on the board," Soota said.

Striking a different note, the Pepsi source said: "We are concerned about the development. We believe our non-partisan associates should remain non-partisan. How can we depend on the chamber to take up our case anymore at the highest-levels when we know its chief represents our rival?"

Pepsi is a member of both CII and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry. Both chambers continue to raise regulatory issues with the government on behalf of the soft-drink industry which is largely represented by the two multinationals.

Das is on the 12-member international advisory board of The Coca-Cola company which is having its inaugural meeting at Lausanne in Switzerland on May 12 and 13.

The high profile board has the former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, the former GATT (General Agreement on Tariff and Trade) director general, Peter Sutherland, former US trade representative Carla Hills and the chairman of Mitsubishi, Minoru "Ben" Makihara.

Das is also the non-executive chairman of Associated Cement Companies Ltd and Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd.

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