5 minutes with: Shalini Jodhan

5 minutes with: Shalini Jodhan, ACMA, CGMA

CV: Jodhan, ACMA, CGMA, is the local business controller at Nestlé Caribbean, a subsidiary of the Swiss food and beverage multinational. The Trinidad and Tobago native started her career at Nestlé as a business analyst nine years ago, shortly after earning a finance degree in the US in 2003.

Shalini Jodhan, ACMA, CGMA, is familiar with the challenges companies can encounter doing business in the Caribbean: lower-priced smuggled goods from as far away as Malaysia; small markets that are spread out, isolated and different; sudden increases in demand ahead of hurricanes; and extremely price-conscious consumers.

As the local business controller for Nestlé Caribbean, Jodhan must incorporate these risks and challenges into her monthly financial forecasts.

“Understanding the sales mix is really key, because the cost and the selling prices are very dependent on what we sell to each territory,” she said. “Understanding the factors in the environment is also very important.”

The division sells the bulk of the products it imports from Nestlé affiliates to distributors that supply retailers and supermarkets on a chain of islands stretching more than 2,000 miles from the North Atlantic into the Caribbean Sea. The biggest of the 20 sales territories, Trinidad and Tobago, is home to about 1.2 million people. The smallest, Montserrat, has a population of about 5,000.

Nestlé Caribbean uses marketing campaigns and trade promotions to compete on price, and Jodhan’s forecasts must reflect the effects that the challenges of doing business in the Caribbean have on volume targets and profitability.

Three ways to forecast in a risky environment

Good communication across functions is key in allowing Jodhan to keep her company on target. Her advice:

1   Develop good relationships with the sales team. Sales managers are the eyes and ears for financial planners and forecasters. As boots on the ground, the sales managers are able to gather crucial information to assess risks and opportunities.

2   Rely on regular contact. Monthly meetings in person and on the phone allow forecasters and financial planners to talk to sales managers.

3   Get out of the silo. Working across functions ensures sales, marketing and finance communicate regularly and enables them to influence top management in strategic planning.