Unilever, the world’s second-largest consumer goods company, said on Thursday that it was promoting Nitin Paranjpe, president, foods & refreshment, to the position of chief operating officer (COO), making the 56-year-old only the second Indian after Harish Manwani to be elevated to this role.
The British-Dutch firm also elevated Sanjiv Mehta, chairman and managing director of Indian subsidiary Hindustan Unilever (HUL), as the company's South Asia president. Both the changes will be effective from May 1.
Manwani, who retired last year as non-executive chairman of HUL, was Unilever COO between 2011 and 2014, and was the second most powerful executive at the Anglo-Dutch company after then chief executive officer (CEO) Paul Polman.
Paranjpe, too, will be the second-in-command after current CEO Alan Jope, responsible for all of Unilever's go-to-market activities, apart driving growth across countries.
The $57-billion Unilever Plc, which has a presence in 190 countries, derives nearly 60 of its revenue from emerging markets including India. The latter alone contributes nearly 9 per cent to Unilever's overall turnover, making it an important market for the global giant.
Mehta, 58, who will supervise markets such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh besides India in his new role, will join Paranjpe and Leena Nair, Unilever's chief human resources officer, on the Unilever Leadership Executive, which is the apex management body at the company, including the CEO, CFO and other key executives.
Since taking over as CEO of HUL in October 2013, Mehta has driven the country's largest consumer goods company through two droughts, a slowing of spends under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), a key rural welfare scheme, and a fall in commodity prices.
The company responded to these challenges by going back to the basics.
As Mehta said in a recent interaction with Business Standard, “We brought focus on the ‘core of the core’. These are brands in categories that are highly penetrated. Using our ‘Winning in Many Indias’ strategy, we’ve sought to drive penetration and distribution for our brands.”