Mr Nitin Paranjpe, Chairman, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), while addressing shareholders at the Company's 90th Annual General Meeting held today, said that as India gears up to become one of the largest economies in the world, Hindustan Unilever will continue to play its part in realising the dream of the new India.
In his speech titled ‘Transforming to Win in the New India’, Mr Paranjpe cited India as the ‘silver lining’ in a challenging era marked by low growth, low investment and low co-operation. He mentioned five factors that will help the country in its growth journey – a young workforce, rising consumption, enviable digital infrastructure, quest to become a favoured investment destination and a growing culture of innovation and enterprise. At the same time, Mr Paranjpe highlighted the challenges that need to be addressed.
“India’s growing workforce need to be provided with relevant opportunities to be productive and contribute to the economy,” said Mr Paranjpe and also stressed upon the importance of increasing women participation in the workforce. The other areas to focus on as a nation, he mentioned were creating a healthy society, ensuring sustainable and equitable growth and boosting the country’s human development index.
“Clearly, we will need all stakeholders to come together to create the India of the future,” said Mr Paranjpe. He added that HUL has been transforming to stay in step with a fast-changing India and will contribute towards the nation’s growth journey.
Building human capital
Mr Paranjpe proudly spoke about the company’s culture of developing talent and meritocracy that has made HUL a preferred employer over the years. He spoke about the importance of building diversity and mentioned that nearly half of the managerial workforce at HUL are women. The Company is poised to achieve gender parity by 2025. He spoke about initiatives like Project Ahilya, through which the Company is focussed on creating equal opportunities for women in sales roles. Mr Paranjpe also reported that there has been a steady progress in representation of women on the factory shopfloor.
Mr Paranjpe said, “While becoming gender balanced is an important first step, to truly benefit from the diversity, we need to create an inclusive culture – a culture that values diversity, a culture that creates a sense of belonging and a culture that allows people to be themselves.” He added, “While recruiting the best talent is crucial, we also know that today’s ever-evolving world demands constant skilling. At HUL, talent development has always been integral to our people practices and we continue to take several actions to ensure that our talent remain future-fit.”
Embracing change to remain future-fit
Mr Paranjpe focussed on another key aspect that will enable the businesses to win in the future – the capacity to adapt and lead change. “Today, a robust digital public infrastructure, the deployment of 5G and increasing smartphone penetration in the country, can provide a major tailwind to businesses such as ours. To ensure we lead this change, we are already on a journey to becoming an intelligent enterprise,” he said.
Speaking about how HUL leverages data to stay relevant and agile, Mr Paranjpe said, “Through our People Data Centre, combined with social listening, we are capturing insights and consumer trends faster than ever before, enabling us to develop solutions in line with the evolving needs of Indians.Our ‘Agile Innovation Hub’, a physical zone developed for collaboration and innovation, is helping us speed up product design, development, and testing, in order to launch innovations faster. Our Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) platforms are directly engaging with digital-native consumers, enabling an end-to-end shopping experience.”
To exemplify how HUL is serving consumers and customers even better through technology, Mr Paranjpe said, “We are digitising general trade through our digital Business to Business (e-B2B) solution – the Shikhar app where retailers can place their orders with us conveniently from anywhere.
Today, a million plus retailers have been onboarded on Shikhar and orders received through it contribute handsomely to the company revenue. We are also digitally transforming our supply chain to enable greater agility, flexibility, and efficiency across the value chain. We are setting up nano factories that enable us to produce in small batches of kilograms rather than tonnes. Our advanced centres such as Samadhan are supporting our customers by enabling faster dispatches and demand fulfilment.”
Embedding purpose into our business strategy
Nitin stressed upon the importance of a healthy planet and a thriving society for businesses to prosper and said, “To ensure that our business operations are in tune with the needs of the planet and society, we have made public commitments to reflect our role in addressing some of the pressing environmental and social challenges of our time.”
Talking about how HUL has embedded purpose into the business strategy, the Unilever Compass, Mr Paranjpe said, “At the heart of the Compass is our purpose: to make sustainable living commonplace. We are determined to end the debate on whether there is a trade-off between purpose and performance.
In the last decade alone, HUL has added nearly Rs. 33,000 crores as incremental turnover and over Rs. 9,500 crores as incremental EBITDA, strengthening our belief that sustainable growth is the only way to grow in the future.” Mr Paranjpe followed this up by citing the several initiatives being undertaken by the Company to address social and environmental challenges, and enhancing livelihoods.
Mr Paranjpe said, “This is India’s time. Armed with a growing young population, a focus on digital public infrastructure, large strides in adoption of green energy, India stands at the focal point for growth globally. It is therefore time for all of us to move forward alongside the nation, together.”
Mr Paranjpe summed up his speech by saying that HUL will continue to partner in the India growth journey be it through strengthening livelihood opportunities for people across the value chain, driving skill development in communities or addressing environmental issues through focused interventions. He added, “We hope that in our very little way, we are able to positively impact the planet and people and partner this great nation in its journey. After all, it has forever been our belief that ‘what is good for India, is good for HUL’.”