Mr Nitin Paranjpe, Chairman, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), while addressing shareholders at the Company's 89th Annual General Meeting held today, said that the India growth journey, which began prior to the pandemic, continues to be strong. He mentioned that India needs growth that is not just transformative, but also inclusive - growth that is both productivity and employment led. Drawing attention to the paradoxical and fast changing world we live in, he highlighted the urgency for businesses to take the lead in addressing the environmental and societal challenges that the world faces.
In his speech titled ‘Serving India, Today and Tomorrow’, Mr Paranjpe said that HUL has been an integral part of India’s growth story over the years and has always believed that what is good for India is good for the company. He shared a glimpse of the Company’s future-fit strategy. He said our belief that purpose-driven brands and business can indeed deliver sustainable growth and it has been further strengthened over the years. He mentioned that the Company crossed the INR 50,000 crore turnover mark and over the last decade, HUL has more than doubled its turnover, tripled the EBITDA and quadrupled the market cap.
Mr Paranjpe said, “At HUL, we are embedding sustainability across the value chain and beyond through what we call the ‘Compass’; our strategy to make sustainable living commonplace. We believe that the Compass will help us deliver superior performance and drive sustainable and responsible growth. We are building technology muscle to serve our customers and consumers even better. We are determined to showcase that there can never be a trade-off between purpose and performance.”
Building brands with purpose
With more than 9 out of 10 Indian households using one or more of HUL brands, Mr Paranjpe said that HUL has the power to impact the lives of consumers. The Company’s brands strive to bring about positive social change and break barriers to help build a more inclusive society through thoughtful marketing campaigns. Through several initiatives, the Company has been addressing challenges like water scarcity, livelihood opportunities, employability, health and sanitation among others.
Transforming to serve the India of tomorrow
With an increased adoption of digital, the shopper journey has now become phygital. A consumer may engage with a brand on social media, experience the product in a physical store, get prompted to make a purchase through advertisements on their social media feeds and finally make the purchase through e-commerce platforms. As a result, brands need to be present everywhere and communicate consistently to stay top of mind. He added that in a nation of paradoxes, critical to unlocking value is deaveraging – we need to win in rural and in urban, in mass as well as in premium, in traditional and on digital.
Building an intelligent enterprise
Mr Paranjpe spoke about the Company’s ‘Reimagine HUL’ journey that was launched to address the surging digital ecosystem and bringing data and technology centre stage in the business. The vision for ‘Reimagine HUL’ is to create a solution that is fit for the complexity of the business and the emerging needs of the consumer. He said, “HUL’s journey is to build an Intelligent Enterprise that is data led, machine-augmented and is fit for the heterogenous nature of the country.”
He talked about HUL’s drive to digitise its supply chain to enhance agility and flexibility to face the increasingly volatile business environment. “Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning are being leveraged for better forecasting and planning. To deliver an unbeatable customer experience in terms of delivery reliability and real time feedback, HUL has launched Samadhan, a tech-enabled customer delivery mechanism. All these will collectively result in improved customer service, better efficiencies, and reduced costs,” he said.
HUL is committed to achieve net zero emissions for all its products from sourcing to point of sale by 2039. Mr Paranjpe said that the Company has already reduced CO2 emissions per tonne of the production by 94% compared to the 2008 baseline and has completely eliminated CO2 emissions from thermal energy in the operations by replacing coal with greener alternatives such as biomass and biodiesel. By 2030, the Company will move away from fossil fuel-derived chemicals in cleaning and laundry products, unlocking new ways of reducing the carbon footprint.
He added that HUL is tackling the most visible environmental issue in the consumer goods industry: plastic packaging, along with partners. In 2021, HUL became plastic neutral, which means, it collected and disposed more plastic waste from the streets of India than the plastic used in the packaging of the finished products.
Creating future-ready leaders
At HUL, there is a clear focus on attracting, developing and retaining meritorious talent from across the country. There is a holistic approach towards honing the talent pipeline and building leadership capabilities in the people. HUL encourages people to define their individual purpose and help them realise it through meaningful actions.
Mr Paranjpe said that HUL has been endeavouring to create an inclusive workplace where everyone feels they belong and are able to thrive. Having identified the equity, diversity and inclusion priorities – gender, people with disabilities and LGBTQI+ communities, HUL is now building capabilities of business leaders to support equity advocacy, diversity awareness and psychological safety in the teams. In the gender diversity journey, HUL has 44% women in managerial levels and will focus on bringing on board women in the extended sales ecosystem and also in the factories.
HUL’s key to driving growth
Mr Paranjpe summed up his speech by saying, “As India moves forward, we will face both challenges and opportunities. In order to overcome the challenges and realise the enormous opportunities that exist, it is imperative to ensure that the next phase of growth for the nation is both sustainable and equitable. Businesses can play a key role in this transformative journey.”
He added, “At HUL, we will continue to serve our consumers by leveraging technology across the value chain while taking care of people and the planet. We will continue to build leaders who believe that sustainable business is the only way forward, and at the same time create an inclusive work culture that enables everyone to be their best selves. We will continue to keep India first, for we believe that what’s good for India, is good for HUL.”