The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lever revamp to work up growth lather

Mumbai, April 15: Five divisions will coalesce into two at a lean-mean Hindustan Lever (HLL) that has gone for the biggest organisational gamble yet to ratchet up a flat topline and take on rivals with greater aggression.

The new wings, home-personal care and foods, will be steered by an apex committee, called National Management, under vice-chairman M. K. Sharma. The panel will oversee performance, besides overall co-ordination of divisional structure and corporate functions.

Current chief M. S. Banga stays on the board, but as the non-executive chairman. While staying with HLL, he will, from July, take charge as the president of Unilever’s $6-billion home and personal care business in Asia.

“In his combined role, he will continue to provide strategic leadership and operational direction to HLL,” a release issued by the company this evening said.

The National Management will comprise, besides Sharma as the head, D. Sundaram (director, finance & IT), Arun Adhikari (managing director, home and personal care) and S. Ravindranath (managing director, foods).

Adhikari will have a key role to play in home and personal care, a business that contributed Rs 6,933 crore to HLL’s 2003 turnover. Company watchers say the job is a recognition of his impressive performance last year.

Personal care was one of the bright spots in 2003, a contrast to Hind Lever’s other grey, slow-moving businesses. The fact that Adhikari will hold the reins of a division that gave the firm 70 per cent of its turnover will put the spotlight firmly on him in the days ahead.

Lever called the decision to introduce a new management structure an effort to “simplify the organisation and provide sharper focus on key brands and categories”.

The new apparatus and leadership changes will enable the company to leverage its linkages with Unilever across Asia in a more effective way.

Analysts scoffed at those who saw Banga’s new assignment at Unilever as a role dilution, arguing that the current HLL chief will wield control over a larger domain.

As the leader of Unilever’s home and personal care business in Asia, he will be sitting at the head of a division whose turnover is twice that of HLL. Even Adhikari will report to him. Banga will shuttle between Singapore, his second address now, and India, officials said.

He will preside over, apart from HLL in India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

In fact, his appointment as group president of Unilever’s home & personal care business in Asia comes close on the heels of his peer Harish Manwani taking over as president of the global giant’s home and personal care division in North America, from March 1.

The $6 billion in revenues that Unilever’s home and personal care division generates in Asia accounts for 30 per cent of its turnover.

The foods wing, headed by Ravindranath, will integrate beverages, foods, ice cream and confectionery. Though it is a small pie — with sales of Rs 1,880.17 crore — HLL expects it to contribute more in future.

The new areas and non-FMCG businesses, comprising plantations and speciality exports, will continue to be headed by three executive directors: Dalip Sehgal (new ventures), Satish Dhall (plantations) and Anoop Mathur (technology, speciality exports). They will report to Sharma, who will also be responsible for human resources, marketing services, corporate affairs, corporate communication, technology, legal and secretarial functions.

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