Business Today

The Best of Both Worlds

Nisaba Godrej is the force that is keeping Godrej Consumer Products in tune with the times.
twitter-logoAjita Shashidhar | Print Edition: Aug 31, 2014
The Best of Both Worlds
Smart Strategy: Nisaba Godrej says she hires people who are smarter and better than her. Photo: Rachit Goswami/


Nisaba Godrej's favourite word to describe her family business is 'Antevasin', which in Sankrit means a person who lives on the border. "It means your one foot is where you come from and the other is in the future," explains Nisaba, Executive Director at Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL). This, says the 36-year-old, comprehensively describes her company's vision, which is to be positioned as someone who has a firm grip on the modern consumer's changing needs and aspirations and at the same time also delivers the age-old Godrej values of trust and integrity.

When she says having a grip on the changing consumer needs and aspirations, she refers not just to the slate of innovations her company has come up in the consumer products segment in the past year but also how the organisation has evolved in terms of people. "When we merged Sara Lee with GCPL in 2010, we took a hard look at our portfolio, and we decided to upgrade our consumers by giving fantastic products at value-for-money pricing. The other key lever I focused on was people," she says.

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The idea was to make employees high performers. There was no room for mediocrity. GCPL had also been grappling with the challenge of being perceived as a trustworthy but an "outdated" company. In order to change that perception, it was essential not just to refresh its brand portfolio but also the attitude of the people running the company. The focus on performance increased manifold. She also hired a lot of young employees in the age group of 25-30 to bring in fresh thinking. "Every employee was encouraged to think innovatively. If we promoted a person we told him or her that it wasn't a pat on the shoulder but meant pressing the speed button on the treadmill."

These steps have helped significantly. The company's revenue has doubled to Rs 7,583 crore in 2013/14 from Rs 3,643 crore in 2010/11. Almost 30 per cent of GCPL's revenue in the past year has come from new products. The two innovations that Nisaba is particularly proud off are GoodKnight Fast Card, a mosquito repellant priced at Rs 1, and Godrej Expert Creme Hair Colour, which is packaged in Rs 30 sachets. GCPL is also tapping into the premium segment. It recently rolled out a range of premium hand wash and hand sanitizers under the Protekt brand.

Vivek Gambhir, Managing Director, Godrej Consumer Products, says Nisaba is the key architect of GCPL's transformation. "She has been the ultimate visionary," says Gambhir.

Nisaba proudly says one of the reasons for GCPL's stellar growth is her ability to hire people who are smarter and better than her. Her best hire so far, she says, has been Gambhir, who joined the company in 2009 as the chief strategy officer from consulting firm Bain & Company.

A. Mahendran, former managing director at GCPL, seconds Nisaba's ability to hire the right talent. "She brought in a completely new management at Godrej Agrovet, which helped in turning the fate of that company. She turned around the loss-making Godrej Agrovet into a profitable entity in just about 18 to 24 months."

Mahendran gives Nisaba a higher score than her father Adi Godrej, Chairman, Godrej Group, when it comes to decision-making. "Nisaba is a shade better than her father when it comes to taking quick, game-changing decisions, which has helped the company to scale new heights." Nisaba had interned under Mahendran in Godrej Sara Lee, in early 2000, before she went to Harvard for her MBA.

Where does Nisaba Godrej see her company in the next few years? "We want to be 10 times our current size 10 years from now," she says. She also wants more diversity at workplace and has recently put together a team for the purpose. Currently, women comprise about 13 per cent of Godrej's workforce, but the plan is to ensure that this number goes up to at least 30 per cent in the next couple of years. "We are not even best in India and nowhere near being world class," she says. "The idea is to make the company more and more attractive for women to stay in the workforce."

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