When Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) announced the appointment of Nitin Paranjpe as the FMCG giant's new CEO, I wasn't very surprised. Way back in the mid-1990s, the company's then chief of corporate communications Irfan Khan had pointed Paranjpe (then an upcoming young manager in his early thirties) out to me and whispered: "Watch that man; he's a future Lever chief." Indeed, from his very early days, Paranjpe was a "lister" at Lever. "Listers" at Lever were individuals who are identified early in their careers as people who have the potential to make it to the top echelons of the company's management, some of them even to the topmost slot in the company. Paranjpe has always been one of those super achievers at Lever and, as one of his colleagues recently told me, has all along been a "lister" at Lever. Come April 1 and Paranjpe, CEO, 44, will move into the corner room at HUL. And he'll certainly have new challenges to tackle.
It's not as if the recent past has been bad at HUL. In fact, it is quite the opposite: profitability has improved over the past couple of years and, in many of the product categories that the foods, home and personal care marketer operates, it has been able to regain lost market shares. Yet, there is still distances to cover before the company can regain its former premier position, both in terms of market shares as well as profitability.
Executive Editor Brian Carvalho met Paranjpe and other senior managers at the FMCG giant for our cover story on where HUL will head next with a new man at the helm. Will Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's announcement of a Rs 60,000-crore waiver on loans benefit farmers in India's most suicide-prone districts in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh? Special Correspondent T.V. Mahalingam travelled to Vidarbha (where 34 farmer suicides were reported in the 10 days after the Budget was announced), and Assistant Editor E. Kumar Sharma to Maqdoompuram in Andhra Pradesh, to find the disturbing answer. Their report appears on in the report Rs 60,000-cr waiver for whom?. Food prices have been rising across the world and in India too they have been inching upwards. Our special report 'Agflation: Food on a burn?', by Associate Editors Shamni Pande and Shalini S. Dagar, on food prices examines whether India is vulnerable to food price shocks.
We also caught up recently with Coca-Cola's worldwide Chairman & CEO, Neville Isdell, who sat down with Business Today for an extensive interview. Read Isdell's interview on how he led a turnaround at the iconic corporation and what he sees as its future.