HUL AGM Speech 2017
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Reimagining Business in Changing Times
Chairman Harish Manwani’s speech at the 84th AGM of HUL
Mr Harish Manwani, Chairman, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), while addressing shareholders at the company’s 84th Annual General Meeting held at Mumbai today spoke about the fast changing and increasingly complex global environment. He stressed upon the need for companies to reimagine not only their business models but more fundamentally their role in the society.
Mr. Manwani talked about the challenges the world faces today – namely, growing inequality, technological unemployment and resource scarcity. In India, a country well-poised to leapfrog into the future, the challenge is two-fold: that of employment generation and employability. He stated that businesses will have to work with educators and government to develop skill development programmes in order to ensure that the workforce of tomorrow has future-ready skills.
The double-edged sword of technology
Mr Manwani highlighted how technological advancement has potential of restructuring not just global business models but the nature of work. He explained, “Companies will need to stimulate innovation, accelerate digital transition, reduce costs and run their businesses more efficiently to face the challenges of this new world.”
India – opportunities and challenges
He mentioned how India is uniquely positioned to leapfrog with the technological advances and at the same time avoid the trap holes that the rest of the world has experienced in their journey from ‘developing’ to ‘developed’.
He said that India has the youngest population profiles in the world with over 65% of its population below the age of 35.” While this can become a demographic dividend for the country, herein also lies India’s biggest challenge. The challenge is two-fold: of creating enormous employment generation opportunities and raising the employability and skills of the Indian youth,” he added. He further explained, “Businesses must step in to lift the capabilities and put as much emphasis on developing shopfloor workers as managerial talent”.
Mr Manwani spoke about how businesses can grow, remain relevant and at the same time earn their right to exist within the communities. He said, “Business should be able to do well by doing good”. He further added, “We have to move from the 3G model (consistent, competitive and profitable growth) to a 4G model where the 4th G recognises the importance of ‘responsible’ growth.”
Innovating for the future
Speaking about the importance of innovating for the future, Mr Manwani said, “In order to grow, businesses need to constantly innovate. This requires companies to embrace technology and creativity and bring both ‘magic and logic’ into their product experience and go-to-market models”.
He shared how Unilever’s People Data Centre, analyses trends from social media, consumer carelines and digital marketing, and turns millions of ‘conversations’ into innovative brand ideas for the core portfolio. “We are now able to reach out to more consumers by capturing and analysing their digital footprint, geo-location and in-store purchase behaviour.
Organising for growth
According to Mr Manwani, “Innovations for the changing world need to be underpinned by an organisational structure that fosters agility, connectivity and diversity”. He cited the example of Winning In Many Indias that has made the business even more agile and responsive to the evolving marketplace. He also added how Unilever’s Connected For Growth initiative has further brought country and global category teams together to promote a culture of collaboration, experimentation and empowerment, and enable faster decision-making with speed and agility.
Developing talent and organisational capabilities
Mr. Manwani said, “Attracting, developing and retaining the best people will always be at the heart of winning organisations”. He spoke about how Unilever has built a holistic approach towards honing the talent pipeline and developing organisational capabilities for the future. “Our training programmes are beginning to reflect the needs of the millennials who are going to form 60% of our workforce by 2020,” he added.
He said, “Attracting, developing and retaining the best people will always be at the heart of winning organisations. Our ability to do so is reflected in the fact that during 2016, Unilever was the number one FMCG Graduate Employer of Choice in 34 of the 60 countries where we actively recruit”.
A Unilever study conducted across five countries shows that a third of consumers are now buying brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. According to Mr Manwani, organisations of the future need to be purpose-driven and values-led.
He spoke about Unilever brands such as Lifebuoy, Domex and Pureit, that are contributing towards the nation’s WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) agenda by promoting good health and hygiene practices. He also spoke about how Unilever is decoupling environmental impact from its operations. He also mentioned how in India HUL has been enhancing livelihoods by developing employable skills of people across its value chain.
Mr. Manwani concluded that in order to grow, companies need to constantly innovate across their value chain, invest in new business models, create non-hierarchical outcome-based organisational structures and build a diverse talent base that has skills and capabilities to operate in a digital world. He added, “Most importantly, business needs to reimagine its role in society and commit to doing well by doing good”.
About Hindustan Unilever
Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) is India's largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods company with a heritage of over 80 years in India. On any given day, nine out of ten Indian households use our products to feel good, look good and get more out of life – giving us a unique opportunity to build a brighter future. For more information visit