Bobby Chacko is a veteran Consumer Products (CPG/FMCG) executive and entrepreneur who has spent the last 25 years as a transformational leader, driving turnarounds of declining businesses across multiple companies in the US and internationally. During his career, Bobby has led iconic brands in category-leading businesses like Altria, GE Capital, ABInbev, The Coca-Cola Company, Mars, and Ocean Spray. He is known as a dynamic change agent and strategic Chief Executive Officer who reinvigorates growth in complex market conditions.
Most recently, Bobby was the President and CEO of Ocean Spray Inc., with $2 billion in global sales and 2,000+ employees. He achieved a triumphant turnaround of a 90-year-old legacy company through a complex restructuring and set a new vision of Food as Medicine. He re-ignited growth through focused financial discipline, customer centricity, new market entries, and accelerated innovation. Bobby has thrived in directing and repositioning businesses where he was inspired by unmet consumer and customer opportunities. Bobby is a holistic strategist who seeks out to solve complex business challenges and drive transformational growth. Bobby’s diversity of general management experiences coupled with his global perspective, having worked across 30+ international markets and lived in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, puts him in a unique position among Chief Executives. Currently, Bobby is Chairman of Asha Pharmaceuticals Inc., a California-based AgTech/Ayurvedic driven Cannabinoid Brand.
Bobby has served on the Board of Directors of Ocean Spray, Consumer Brands Association, and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. He currently serves on the board of directors of Asha Pharmaceuticals, Fairexpay Inc., a global cross-border financial payments platform, and a YPO New England chapter member. His community involvement includes support behind local Food Banks and Childhood Health & Education initiatives.
How did you get started in this business?
My dear friend who designed the Rolling Stone logo has been a creative director all his life, and after he had battled cancer, he always told me of the healing and pain management properties of cannabis. Thus, Asha Pharmaceuticals was born with my wife, my creative director friend, and one of the 20-year original growers in California.
How does your company make money?
By selling products legally through dispensaries to customers that want a natural remedy or medicine potent enough to help with pain, stress, and anxiety.
How does your company go about acquiring new customers?
Our original grower knew a dispensary that he was friends with and went on a pitch. They tried the product on the spot, discussed pricing and we were happy for the prime merchandising placement.
How did you work your way up in this business?
Word of mouth is the most powerful tool! Logos and placement in areas your consumers will see it. Brand recognition is a key part of consideration to purchase. The other key opportunity to capture is product trial and giveaways. Plan on giving a few things away so people can experience what you are selling. They come with digital experiences, capture their experiences, share, and like. Social media does work if used effectively.
What made you want to work in this industry
When my wife recently went through cancer, as we painfully know too many loved ones who have, it became clear that she needed a natural remedy that worked with pain versus the addictive opioid alternatives.
What is it that you feel makes you good at your job?
When I have taken someone or a group like a board of directors through a vision they had not expected and culminated in them agreeing or voting to pursue it. There is nothing more energizing than to take the road less traveled and then taking others through it without the pain and anguish and having them experience the pros and cons and making them see the value of the opportunity because you have taken them through an experience. The art of persuasion is indeed an art, and it is something I have worked hard to learn.
What are the perks of working in this type of business?
Meeting people and making my customers happy when they walk through the door. Staying small can take a lot of pressure away but not at the expense of thinking big.
What are the disadvantages of working in this field?
Decision making, this includes passing on certain capital raise sources and recrafting a different strategy for the long term. So we initiated a small capital raise to accelerate growth. We have had some very strong interests. After considering many options I have decided that we need to move this raise to much later in the life cycle reminding me that slower is better in this category for growth. Raising capital comes at a cost, let’s be more effective so as to minimize that cost for the long term.
What’s the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part has definitely been helping people find a natural source of healing they are happy with to help with pain management, stress, and anxiety.
Where is your industry headed? What excites you about the future in this line of work?
Building this business and creating a brand is a key part of the future. An artisan and niche brand with a cult following is where I see strong purpose. I am excited about what value that will create for my customers, knowing that the brand does not compromise on quality and provenance. The relationship between brand and customer personalities run deep if curated and authentically nurtured. Some of the best things take time and need a lot of sweat and tears to relish in its success.
What advice do you give people who want to get into your field of work?
What I learned from them all, is you have to take first steps to the unknown, and believe in yourself, and ask for help. Don’t seek perfection and don’t sweat the small stuff and share your troubles. Fail fast, Fail often, but Fail Forward.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Mentors and mentees are discovered, not shopped. As such, I’d like the opportunity for such relationships to be developed organically vs. marketed. It’s essential when working with people to approach them, build a relationship first, and then ask them for mentorship. Trust is a crucial baseline to have a productive mentor and mentee relationship.