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Screenshot from Sunny Verghese's CNBC interview
Screenshot from Sunny Verghese's CNBC interview

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Sunny Verghese gets balance between business and humanitarian issues right

Olam International is facing big shocks to its business. Although most of its business is in staple foods, which remain largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is facing difficulties such as in producing food and getting it to consumers.

Besides talking about his business, CEO Sunny Verghese made it a point to talk about how the pandemic could be causing a humanitarian crisis of lost jobs, hunger, food insecurity, and child labour in African nations where Olam operates.

As always I am impressed with the way he handled the interview.

Read on for my assessment below.


We launched the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards in 2018 to recognise local business leaders for their communications skills, and to showcase authentic and credible home-grown communicators.

Supported by the Asia Pacific Association of Communications Directors, we highlight shining examples for other local business leaders to follow, and to build a culture of excellence in communication, to maximise the potential of Asian companies in the Asian Century.

Nominations close October 31, 2020 at


Here are the five top points about the interview

  • Numbers

Verghese came prepared with persuasive statistics. He started off by saying Olam employs 89,000 people over 67 countries, and 85% of their business is in food and feed ingredients, an industry which is recession-proof. Throughout the interview, Sunny brought up numbers to give weight to his points.

  • Flagging

When asked about how the pandemic is affecting his business, Verghese outlined that he would talk about the "four shocks" to the business from the pandemic: the health shock, a reduction in demand for some food while a rise in demand for others, difficulties in supplying food, and financial market shocks.

  • Examples

Verghese gave an example of how lost jobs in this crisis in Africa can lead to consequences where families have less to eat, or have to eat less nutritious foods, with some children even having to go and work. Verghese combines this with further statistics, mentioning that 150 million people have lost jobs in Africa in this crisis, and 60%-80% of their consumption expenditure is on food.

  • Story

Verghese gave a vivid account of what it's like on the ground. He said schools are locked down, people cannot work, child labour and other issues might come up during this time. He also said unlike the developed world where there are job protection schemes, people in developing nations who don’t work won’t get to eat that day, which means the pandemic is creating a hunger crisis.

  • Messaging

Verghese came off as honest and sincere, partly due to the strength of the humanitarian messaging. We were moved by his stories and examples, and we felt there was an emotional weight to this interview.

If you know Sunny Verghese, share this article with him and congratulate him on being nominated for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2020.

If you have what it takes, nominate yourself or your senior business leader for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2020!

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