It gives me great pleasure to share with you an update on the performance of yourCompany for the year 2017-18. It was a transformative year with the introduction of theGoods and Services Tax (GST) an important development that has created a single nationalmarket and will benefit both consumers as well as the industry including the ConsumerGoods sector. While trade conditions remained volatile during early implementation theyhave since stabilised and there is a gradual improvement in overall demand.
In this challenging business environment your Company delivered a strong performance.Our Winning in Many Indias' (WiMi) and Connected 4 Growth' (C4G) initiativeshave made us more agile customer centric and responsive to the diverse and rapidlyevolving marketplace. Our 4G model of growth - consistent competitive profitable andresponsible continues to serve us well and 2017-18 was the seventh consecutive year ofboth topline growth and margin improvement.
In the year under review our Domestic Consumer business on comparable basis grew by12% driven by an underlying volume growth of 6%. EBITDA margin on a comparable basisexpanded by 155 bps. Profit after tax before exceptional items grew by 21% to ' 5135crores and Net Profit at ' 5237 crores was up 17%. The strong track record of cashgeneration was sustained. The Board of Directors have proposed a final dividend of ' 12per share subject to the approval of the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting.Together with an interim dividend of ' 8 per share the total dividend for the financialyear ended 31st March 2018 amounts to ' 20 per share.
Each of our businesses and functions played an important role in delivering thesestrong results. In Home Care we accelerated our growth momentum and further strengthenedour competitive position. Surf excel delivered another year of outstanding performancedriven by volume growth and premiumisation. Rin detergent bar was upgraded using apatented smart-foam' technology that saves up to two buckets of water in everywashing cycle and is being extended to key markets after a successful test launch inMaharashtra. We also continued to innovate and invest behind nascent categories likeHousehold Care and Fabric Conditioners with excellent results.
In Personal Care both Personal Products and Personal Wash delivered strong growth. Wecontinued to strengthen our core portfolio through innovations lead market development insegments of the future and stepped up our presence in the fastgrowing naturals'segment. Hair Care sustained its strong growth momentum several new innovations werelaunched in premium Skin Care and Lakme became the latest brand to cross the ' 1000 croremark. In Naturals Indulekha Hair Oil delivered excellent results and the brand wasextended to shampoos LEVER ayush' was launched and rapidly rolled out nationallyand several natural' variants were launched as an extension to our core brands.
Our Foods business performed well with continued focus on strong brand and marketbuilding initiatives. Innovations such as the Knorr Italian Margherita' andCheese and Herbs' variants were introduced in select geographies and are ready forexpansion.
In Refreshments we reclaimed market leadership in tea by differentially leveraging ourportfolio of brands across the country. Coffee continued its premiumisation initiativeswith BRU while innovative launches and geographical expansion boosted our fast-growingIce Creams and Frozen Desserts business.
Our sales and distribution system with an unrivalled national presence acrosstraditional and modern trade channels remains a key competitive advantage. We continuedto expand our direct coverage and leverage technology and intelligent analytics tosignificantly enhance our customer service and on-shelf availability. The Company alsocontinued to make significant investments in building capabilities to win in channels ofthe future and substantial progress is being made particularly in the fast-growinge-commerce channel.
Our world-class supply chain continued its relentless focus on driving qualitycustomer service and cost effectiveness across the value chain. Customer service levelsreached upwards of 95% while savings in costs and cash were at a record high which helpedthe business to invest behind growth and still deliver a healthy margin improvement.
We remain committed to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) to drive growth andat the same time create a positive social impact. We continued with our initiatives inthe areas of hygiene sanitation and safe drinking water and over 140 million people havebenefitted from the Lifebuoy Handwashing Programme Domex Toilet Academy and Pureit safedrinking water. Through our Swachh Aadat curriculum we reached out to students in over1200 primary schools to teach them hygienic habits of washing hands with soap adoptingsafe drinking water practices and using clean toilets.
In line with our USLP goals we took significant steps to further reduce waste waterconsumption energy usage and CO2 emissions in our factories and offices. Weincreased the renewable energy share in our manufacturing to 36% with a clear objective ofimproving it even further through increased utilisation of traditional biofuels likeagricultural waste. To address the challenges of depleting water resources HindustanUnilever Foundation along with its partners have created a water conservation potentialof over 450 billion litres.
We are in a rapidly changing world where burgeoning digital connectivity and ubiquityof data is reshaping the value creation model across industries. We continue to lead thedigital transformation with significant investments in advanced data analyticsautomation robotics and artificial intelligence across the whole value chain. We arecollaborating with experts cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset in our employees anddriving transformative experiments to unlock value in our journey from mass marketing tomassive customisation.
Overall it was another year of sustained high performance with considerableachievements across our business. None of this would have been possible without thededication and determination of our people. Our employee engagement scores continued to beat a record high and we once again emerged as the employer of choice amongst leadingbusiness school students across the country.
I have had the good fortune and privilege to serve this great Company as a Chairman forthe last thirteen years. As I bid farewell I would like to thank each and every employeeand those working with us across the value chain for their commitment and service to theCompany. I would also like to thank the Board of Directors for their unstinted supportthroughout my tenure. Most importantly I would like to thank you our shareholders foryour overwhelming trust and confidence that helped to uncompromisingly pursue an agendathat was in the long-term interest of the Company.
It's my pleasure to pass on the baton to Sanjiv Mehta. I am confident that under hisleadership and your support the Company will reach even greater heights.