Manvinder Singh 'Vindi' Banga has been elevated to Unilever's apex management team. Banga has been appointed president, foods division, and Harish Manwani has been appointed president, Unilever Asia and Africa.
Thus, technically, between April, when these changes come into effect, and May 2005, when KB Dadiseth, 60, retires from the board, there will be three Indians in Unilever's top management.
Unconfirmed reports said Dadiseth might come back to India for a larger role in the Tata group. He is currently a director on the board of Indian Hotels.
A section of the industry even sees him as a successor to the 67-year-old Ratan N Tata, who retires in three years as chairman of the Tata group.
Banga, 50, will now shift base to London. He, however, will continue as the non-executive chairman of Hindustan Lever for the "time being". A Hindustan Lever media statement on Thursday said, "Banga will continue as the non-executive chairman of Hindustan Lever for now."
The changes follow Unilever's move to abandon the dual chief executive officer structure with effect from April. It is not immediately known whether Hindustan Lever will replicate this model in India.
Hindustan Lever's current set up consists of a national management committee, comprising MK Sharma, vice-chairman; D Sundaram, director, finance and IT; Arun Adhikari, managing director, home and personal care products; and S Ravindranath, managing director, foods.
The organisational restructuring at Hindustan Lever took place mid-last year by replicating the structure of its parent, which had split its fast-moving consumer goods businesses into two divisions: home and personal care, and foods.
Hindustan Lever integrated its soaps and detergents and personal products businesses to form the home and personal care division. Similarly, in the foods division, the beverages, foods, ice-creams and confectionery businesses were merged.
Unilever has scrapped the dual management structure to speed up decision making and to respond to competition. Analysts do not foresee any structural changes in the Indian operations.
In case Banga relinquished his role in Hindustan Lever, Manwani could step into his shoes as he was already the operational head of Asia, they said.
Banga is the fourth Hindustan Lever chairman to be elevated to the top Unilever management team, after T Thomas (in 1980), AS Ganguly (in 1990) and Dadiseth (in 2000).
In July 2004, following an organisational restructuring at Hindustan Lever, Banga was appointed business group president of Unilever Asia's home and personal care division.
Manwani joined Hindustan Lever in 1976 and was president of the home and personal care division of Unilever, North America, before his new assignment.Unilever has streamlined its management team. It will now consist of three regional presidents, one each for Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Africa, two presidents, one each for the foods and home and personal care categories, the chief financial officer, and the chief human resources officer.