Sanjiv Mehta, CEO and Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever, is one of best Best CEO awardees at BT Mindrush on Friday. Thanks to Mehta-the winner in the FMCG category of the BT-PwC India's Best CEOs ranking-in the December quarter, the company gained its highest market share in many categories in a decade.
According to insiders, while HUL has been the market leader in most of the personal care categories for decades, it is Mehta's push for innovation that helps it hold on to the top spot. What makes Mehta stand taller than most of his competitors in India's Rs 5-lakh crore FMCG market is his ability to spot any upcoming macro-level issue early. Take the pandemic for instance. In March 2020, when the nation was put under strict lockdown overnight, HUL promptly adopted a new model for its supply chain. Realising that the conventional method of achieving set sales targets would not work in the new normal, it shifted its focus to ensuring seamless movement of goods and streamlining its supply chain.
Calling its performance resilient amid a challenging environment, analysts at Axis Securities said HUL's performance beat expectations on all the key headline numbers. HUL's success in the period can also be attributed to the smooth transition after it concluded the Rs 37,000-crore merger with GSK Consumer Healthcare in early-2020.
According to Prabhudas Lilladher's Head of Research Amnish Aggarwal, it was the GSK Consumer business that lifted HUL's fortunes-excluding the health-led GSK business, HUL's sales actually declined by 7 per cent.
"Ahead of the synergy meetings with the GSK CH team, I recall him putting the key to success in simple words-If you take care of people, people will take care of your business," says Srinandan Sundaram, Executive Director, foods and refreshment at HUL. Mehta, who will now be CEO & MD from March 31 as the FMCG major has split the CMD's post, credits his success to experience and faith in God. Since he joined the professional world in 1983, he has had the 'opportunity' of working under the most volatile situations. From his role in the crisis management team at Union Carbide in 1984 after the infamous Bhopal gas tragedy to taking the wheel amid the Arab Spring as the chairman of Unilever North Africa and Middle East, he has faced many uphill tasks.
"I believe in God and that gives me internal courage. Apart from the Bhopal tragedy and the Arab Spring, I have been though major issues such as the Gulf War, when there was a massive outcry against foreign multinationals and, in recent times, situations like demonetisation. Thus, any challenge that comes my way, I am never overwhelmed by it," says Mehta.
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