Managerial Economics Individual Assignment


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Is Coca-Cola the “Perfect” Business?


What does a perfect business look like? For Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger, vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., it looks a lot like Coca-Cola. To see why, imagine going back in time to 1885, to Atlanta, Georgia, and trying to invent from scratch a nonalcoholic beverage that would make you, your family, and  all  of  your  friends’  rich.  Your  beverage  would  be  nonalcoholic  to  ensure widespread appeal among both young and old alike. It would be cold rather than hot so as to provide relief from climatic effects. It must  be ordered by name—a trademarked name. Nobody gets rich selling easy-to-imitate generic products. It must   generate   a   lot   of   repeat   business   through   what   psychologists   call conditioned reflexes. To get the desired positive conditioned reflex, you will want to make it sweet, rather than bitter, with no after-taste. Without any after-taste, consumers will be able to drink as much of your product as they like. By adding sugar to make your beverage sweet, it gains food value in addition to a positive stimulant.  To  get  extra-powerful  combinatorial  effects,  you  may  want  to  add caffeine as an additional stimulant. Both sugar and caffeine work; by combining them,   you   get   more   than   a   double   effect—you   get   what   Munger   calls   a “lollapalooza”  effect.  Additional  combinatorial  effects  could  be  realized  if  you design the product to appear exotic. Coffee is another popular product, so making your beverage dark in color seems like a safe bet.


By adding carbonation, a little fizz can be added to your beverage’s appearance and its appeal. To keep the lollapalooza effects coming, you will want to advertise. If people associate your beverage with happy times, they will tend to reach for it whenever they are happy, or want to be happy. (Isn’t that always, as in “Always Coca-Cola”?) Make it available at sporting events, concerts, the beach, and at theme parks—wherever and whenever people have fun. Enclose your product in bright, upbeat colors that customers tend to associate with festive occasions (another combinatorial effect). Red and white packaging would be a good choice. Also make sure that customers associate your beverage with festive occasions. Well-timed advertising and price promotions can help in this regard—annual price promotions tied to the Fourth of July holiday, for example, would be a good idea.


To  ensure  enormous  profits,  profit  margins  and  the  rate  of  return  on  invested capital  must  both  be  high.  To  ensure  a  high  rate  of  return  on  sales,  the  price charged must be substantially above unit costs.   Because consumers tend to be least price sensitive for moderately priced items, you would like to have a modest “price  point,”  say  roughly  $1–$2  per  serving.  This  is  a  big  problem  for  most beverages because water is a key ingredient, and water is very expensive to ship long distances. To get around this cost-of-delivery difficulty, you will not want to sell the beverage itself, but a key ingredient, like syrup, to local bottlers. By selling syrup to independent bottlers, your company can also better safeguard its “secret ingredients.” This also avoids the problem of having to invest a substantial amount in  bottling plants, machinery,  delivery trucks,  and  so on.  This minimizes capital requirements and boosts the rate of return on invested capital. Moreover, if you correctly price the key syrup ingredient, you can ensure that the enormous profits generated by carefully developed lollapalooza effects accrue to your company, and not to the bottlers. Of course, you want to offer independent bottlers the potential for highly satisfactory profits in order to provide the necessary incentive for them to push your product. You not only want to “leave something on the table” for the bottlers in terms of the bottlers’ profit potential, but they in turn must also be encouraged to “leave something on the table” for restaurant and other customers. This means that you must demand that bottlers deliver a consistently high-quality product at carefully specified prices if they are to maintain their valuable franchise to sell your beverage in the local area.


If you had indeed gone back to 1885, to Atlanta, Georgia, and followed all of these suggestions,  you  would  have  created  what  you  and  I  know  as  The  Coca-Cola Company. To be sure, there  would  have  been  surprises  along  the  way.  Take widespread  refrigeration,  for example. Early on, Coca-Cola management saw the fountain business as the primary driver in cold carbonated beverage sales. They did not foretell that widespread refrigeration would make grocery store sales and in-home   consumption   popular.   Still,   much   of   Coca-Cola’s   success   has   been achieved  because  its  management  had,  and  still  has,  a  good  grasp  of  both  the economics and the psychology of the beverage business. By getting into rapidly growing foreign markets with a winning formula, they hope to create local brand- name recognition, scale economies in distribution, and achieve other “first mover” advantages like the ones they have nurtured in the United States for more than 100 years. In a world where the typical company earns 10 percent rates of return on invested capital, Coca-Cola earns three and four times as much.  Typical profit rates, let alone operating losses, are unheard of at Coca-Cola. It enjoys large and growing profits, and requires practically no tangible capital investment. Almost its entire value is derived from brand equity derived from generations of advertising and carefully nurtured positive lollapalooza effects. On an overall basis, it is easy to see why Buffett and Munger regard Coca-Cola as a “perfect” business.


Attempt the following questions (1.5 Pts each)


  1. What do you think is the price elasticity of demand for Coca-Cola – elastic or inelastic? Why? What about its income elasticity be?
  2. Assume the Quantity demand for Coca-cola in Ethiopia increased by 20% within a month as the price of Pepsi increased from 10 birr/bottle to 12 birr/bottle, calculate the price elasticity for Coca-Cola? How do you interpret the result? What strategy could Coca-Cola may follow?
  3. How do you evaluate the business model of Coca-Cola considering Profit maximization and Social responsibility objectives?
  4. One of the most important skills to learn in managerial economics is the ability to identify a good business. Discuss at least four characteristics of a good business.
  5. Identify and write about at least four companies that you regard as having the characteristics you listed.


Case 2 – How travel industries make use of price elasticity


Economists  have  measured  the  price  elasticities  of  demand  for  railway  and  air ways journeys and found that for peak travel they are less than 1 and for off-peak travel they are greater than 1. For instance, Train-operating companies would be able  to  raise  total  revenue  by  increasing  peak  and  lowering  off-peak  fares.  The


ability to raise fares successfully at peak will depend on any alternative forms of transport which travellers could use to avoid paying the higher price. Where the alternatives are impractical the passenger will continue to travel and pay the higher fare. However, in such circumstances the ability of the company to set fares to maximize revenue may be limited by regulatory action. To maximize revenue from each market segment, train-operating companies offer arrange of prices, charging the highest prices to those consumers operating on the least elastic portions of their demand curves and the lowest prices to those consumers operating on the most elastic portions of their demand curves.


Question (2.5 pts)


Why the earlier a ticket is booked the lower is the price? Or Why the price is more expensive the nearer the date of departure for a flight? Discuss the economic meaning?



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