led his entire professional life with a very simple motto: to be focused on the job at hand and do that well. While the maxim may sound too content to today’s agile and ambitious lot of corporate professionals, Paranjpe
has undoubtedly managed to do wonders with his humble prophecy.
The man, known to the Indian corporate world for steering pass the country’s largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company Hindustan Unilever
(HUL) through the tough times of global economic crisis, will now lead HUL’s parent Unilever’s foods business. A Mumbaikar
by origin, Paranjpe, 55, will take over as the head of the Rs 1,69,500-crore foods division of the Dutch-British multinational corporation from January 1, 2018. While that is a significant progress, when it comes to Indian professionals taking up larger roles globally in recent years, Unilever’s new bet signifies the trust that the company has on Paranjpe.
Despite being one of the largest food players globally, Unilever
has been under pressure from its investors
of late. Earlier this year, after a failed buyout bid worth US$143 billion (Rs 9,27,700 crore) by American food processing giant Kraft Heinz, Unilever
unveiled its plans to explore the sale of its spreads business, restructuring
of two major divisions, reviewing its dual legal structure
and a buyback of US$5.3 billion in stock. All of these measures were aimed at cutting costs and appeasing its investors.
As a part of the plan, the firm will also overhaul its foods and beverages businesses to cut costs, which may help it increase dividends by 12 per cent, it had said in February.
Given the pressure it faced from its investors, Unilever
also said that it will merge the food and refreshment divisions to improve its profitability, particularly in light of the dropped deal with Kraft Heinz.
Paranjpe, who has handled several global roles within the company since 2000, will now be the man Friday for Unilever
in its “transformation”. The man, however, is not new to the changing dynamics of the game. While he currently leads Unilever’s homecare division from London, his rise to prominence came early in his career as he adopted fast and remained focused on developing people-to-people relationships.
After completing his master’s in marketing from Mumbai’s Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management in 1987, Paranjpe
joined Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as an engineering trainee. However, he got the “high of his life” when he managed to enter HUL
(then Hindustan Lever Limited) as an area sales manager for detergents. In his words, he would have been delighted if he could have risen to head of sales or marketing in the company. “Any job beyond that would be a bonus,” he told this newspaper in 2013. However, the journey was about to begin there.
Paranjpe’s first exposure to the global arena came in 2000, when he was chosen to be the assistant to the chairman at London. Moving up the ladder, he has donned many hats – category head of regional brands, vice-president and category head of homecare and executive director at Unilever.
His big break came in 2008, when Paranjpe
took charge of the Indian subsidiary HUL
and became its youngest CEO at the age of 46 years.
Since, his elevation as the president of homecare division at Unilever
in October 2013, his focus remained on igniting the passion and energy of his team to deliver on Unilever’s greater purpose.
“I am passionate about understanding what people’s aspirations are, and take great pride in leading a talented team that crafts truly consumer-centric products and brands,” he states on his LinkedIn
A mechanical engineering graduate from the College of Engineering, Pune, Paranjpe
has been different from most HUL
executives. Unlike most of them, he was not an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) alumni and preferred to stay back into the company and grow, rather moving out early for greener pastures.
While, his track record and experience at the international level will surely be his assets, like his focused approach. The Unilever’s man Friday has a tough job in hand.