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Suyash Chauhan, meet the man at the centre of HUL data controversy

Suyash Chauhan was with HUL for 14 years before being embroiled in a legal dispute with the company

Suyash Chauhan
Suyash Chauhan. Illustration: Ajay Mohanty

In August 2017, when Unilever Nepal announced a special dividend to mark its 25 years of existence, 41-year-old Suyash Chauhan, then managing director of the company, had indicated that this was a way of giving back to shareholders who had reposed faith in the firm. 

Seven months later, Chauhan, along with former Hindustan Unilever (HUL) colleagues Hemal Jain and Kishor Patil, were at the centre of a legal battle pertaining to data theft at their erstwhile firm. 

Chauhan, an IIM Lucknow alumnus, who joined HUL in April 2003, quit the firm in November 2017. 

Regulatory filings show that he along with Jain, a chartered accountant who was a director at HUL’s centre of excellence before quitting in January 2018, set up Destiny Endeavours and D Endeavours Fulfillment, both distribution and trading houses, within months of resigning from their respective positions.

The two companies along with Chauhan, Jain and Patil are the defendants in the matter pressed by HUL in the Bombay High Court. Destiny Endeavours, based in Mumbai, was incorporated on January 31, and D Endeavours Fulfillment, also registered in Mumbai, was incorporated on March 10.

In an order dated March 23, Justice S J Kathawalla, in whose court the matter is being heard, said, Chauhan and Jain, who are directors of the two companies, were “canvassing” the businesses to serve brands through a wide and extensive wholesale and retail network. 

The order also said that Jain had set up a Google cloud account on behalf of Destiny Endeavours with the objective of transferring and storing HUL’s confidential information on the platform. It added that the confidential information had been accessed and taken by Chauhan, Jain and Patil.

While Kevic Setalvad, the senior counsel representing Chauhan, Jain and Patil, declined to comment, HUL said in a statement that it had obtained an injunction, restraining the three from misusing and/or dealing with any proprietary and confidential information of the firm.

“The company has terminated the services of two of its employees (Jain and Patil) for breach of internal policies,” HUL said. 

“During the company’s internal investigation, these employees were found to be sharing the company’s confidential information with another ex-employee (Chauhan), who is also a party to the suit,” the company said.

While Chauhan, Jain and Patil have been given time till April 25 to file their affidavit-in-reply, EY, which was permitted by the court to carry out an audit of the theft in a March 27 hearing, has also been given time till then (April 25) to conduct the investigation. 

For Chauhan, the legal issue comes after 14 years with HUL, which saw him go from being an area sales manager to the managing director. Through his years at HUL, Chauhan acquired expertise across general trade, modern trade and customer marketing and had a good understanding of key consumer goods categories including foods, refreshment, personal care and home care. 

Prior to being appointed as managing director of Unilever Nepal in August 2016, Chauhan oversaw customer marketing for HUL, based out of Mumbai.