Business Today

Champion of Innovations

She has made her mark with out-of-the-box business solutions.
twitter-logoAjita Shashidhar | Print Edition: Sep 15, 2013
Priya Nair, Vice President, Detergents, HUL
Priya Nair, Vice President, Detergents, HUL Photo: Rachit Goswami/

Last year, while on a visit to a remote village in Tamil Nadu with her CEO Nitin Paranjpe, Priya Nair, Vice President, Detergents, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), got a surprise. She saw a bottle of HUL's Comfort Fabric Conditioner in the house of a poor farmer. Fabric conditioner, by any stretch of the imagination, was not considered a mass-market product.

This experience convinced Nair that there was a market for premium products even in rural India. "They may not use fabric conditioners every day, but some do use it once or even twice a month. As aspirations begin to change, consumers start upgrading," says Nair. As head of the more than $1 billion detergent business of HUL, the country's largest FMCG company, Nair is now betting on "premiumisation" to fuel further growth in the category. "I see this business moving forward on the premiumisation journey, but we also need to strike a balance between aspirations and reality," she says. One of her recent launches is Comfort One Rinse, a fabric conditioner that promises to save water while washing clothes.

Energetic, focused, passionate, risk taker with unwavering resolve
Indeed, Nair is known for such out-of-the-box thinking. Anuradha Aggarwal, now Senior Vice President (Brand Communications, Insights and Online), Vodafone, who worked with Nair at HUL for over a decade, calls her a "champion of innovations".

Nair has risen through the ranks at HUL. A 1995-batch MBA from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune, she started off as a management trainee. She has worked in the consumer research, sales and marketing departments as brand manager of Dove, Axe, Rexona, Close-Up and Pepsodent, before becoming the category head of the company's largest vertical, detergents, in 2011.

So, what has been HUL's biggest contribution to her life and career? "It has given me a good and humbling sense of what my country and my consumers are all about," she says.

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