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Meet Unilever's Mr Dependable

By Viveat Susan Pinto
March 22, 2019 17:33 IST
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As Unilever’s COO, he is expected to take significant load off CEO Alan Jope, pushing growth across markets and driving go-to-market activities.

Unilever’s move to elevate Nitin Paranjpe, president, foods and refreshment, to the position of chief operating officer (COO) did not surprise many.

The world’s second-largest consumer goods company has been struggling at an overall level, having missed Street estimates on sales in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2018 (firm follows a January-December accounting year).

 

While Argentina, facing inflationary pressures, and developed markets (such as Europe) were to blame for the lower-than-expected Q4 sales, announced in January, Alan Jope, who took charge as Unilever chief executive officer (CEO) around the same time, was hardly starting his innings on a positive note, experts said.

In his hour of need, Paranjpe was the man he turned to, said sources, regarded as Mr Dependable within the company.

An alumnus of Mumbai’s Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Paranjpe didn’t begin his professional career at Hindustan Unilever (HUL), the Anglo-Dutch major’s Indian unit.

His journey began at engineering major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) after graduating from the College of Engineering in Pune in 1984.

He moved to HUL (then called Hindustan Lever) in 1987.

In 2000, he moved to Unilever London and was involved in a review of the organisation structure. During 2001, he worked as executive assistant to the chairman and Unilever Executive Committee.

On his return to India in 2002, Paranjpe held more senior positions in laundry and household care, including vice-president, home care, India (2004), and executive director, home & personal care (2006).

In April 2008, he was appointed CEO of HUL and executive vice-president for Unilever, South Asia, a position he held till September 2013.

This period was characterised by financial meltdown, which triggered a global slowdown subsequently.

While India remained largely immune to this, HUL had a number of challenges to deal with, including the emergence of smaller and nimbler regional players across its portfolio.

Paranjpe, who was HUL’s youngest CEO at 44 when he took over, was credited with fighting this competition by expanding reach into rural areas, pressing the accelerator button on launches and pushing aggressively when it came to advertising and marketing.

He was elevated as president of the homecare division at Unilever in October 2013, making his debut in the Unilever Leadership Executive, the company’s apex management body.

In January 2018, Paranjpe was appointed president of the foods and refreshment business after they were merged globally.

As Unilever’s COO, effective May, he is expected to take significant load off Jope, pushing growth across markets and driving go-to-market activities.

“Today’s increasingly fragmented consumer, channel and media environment require us to operate with more speed and agility than ever before.

"With his deep knowledge and experience of our markets, Nitin is ideally placed to work with me and the Unilever Leadership Executive to drive our performance and help deliver our growth ambitions,” Jope said on Thursday.

Photograph: Courtesy, Business Standard

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Viveat Susan Pinto in Mumbai
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