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BW Businessworld

HUL: Ruled By Conscience

Hindustan Unilever’s Leadership practices have ensured that it is the ‘no1 employer of choice’ for business school students

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami


Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) CEO Sanjiv Mehta likes to quote the group Founder, William Hesketh Lever. Lever had said, “I believe that nothing can be greater than a business, however small it may be, that is governed by conscience; and that nothing can be meaner or pettier than a business however large, governed without honesty and without brotherhood.”  The group’s “legacy of doing well by doing good” elevates it effortlessly to the position of sectoral leader in BW Businessworld’s list of the Most Respected Companies of 2018 in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment.

With net sales of Rs 34,530 crore (on gross revenue of Rs 35,218 crore) and an EBITDA (earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation) of Rs 7,276 crore, Hindustan Unilever is without doubt a market leader in the FMCG horizon in India. In the 2017-18 financial year HUL’s cash from operations was Rs 8,000 crore, an increase of Rs 1,369 crores over the previous fiscal. At HUL, integrated e-tendering, smart inventory modelling, digital factory, smart robotics and an efficient fulfilment centre are technological buzzwords.

Hindustan Unilever’s earnings are slated to get a boost with the proposed merger with GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Limited (GSKCH). The amalgamation of Hindustan Unilever and GSKCH has recently been approved by the HUL Board of Directors. The scheme approved will entail the existing shareholders 4.39 shares of HUL for every share in GSKCH India, valuing the total business at Rs 31,700 crore, subject to requisite approvals from statutory authorities and shareholders.

Some of the milestones in Hindustan Unilever’s list of achievements include the company’s beverage factory in Kolkata receiving the prestigious Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Food Safety Award 2017 for outstanding achievements in food safety. Hindustan Unilever’s Puducherry Home & Personal Care (HPC) factory secured the second place at the CII’s Southern Region Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) Excellence Awards 2017 in the ‘Manufacturing - Others’ category.

Responding to queries at the annual investors’ meet, Sanjiv Mehta outlined strategies for Hindustan Unilever’s strategy for specialised markets. He said, “We also know how to build a small brand and make it mighty. The question is, when HUL grows a small brand into a Rs 1,000 crore brand, it doesn’t receive as much focus as a player who is very small and creates a niche property of Rs 200 crore. We wish them well. Many times they open up new segments.”

Hindustan Unilever has often been called a ‘Leadership Factory’. At last count, the company had unleashed 500 leaders into the corporate world. The company’s leadership practices have ensured that it is the ‘No1 Employer of Choice’ for business school students for seven consecutive years in a row. The company does not lag behind in the sphere of social responsibility either. Hindustan Unilever has embraced the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which contributes to activities listed in the Schedule VII of Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan aims to achieve three big goals globally – improve the health and well-being of more than a billion people, reduce the environmental impact of making and using its products and enhance the livelihood of millions of people.

The Lifebuoy hand-washing programme reaches out to more than 67 million people. In keeping with the Swachh Bharat Mission, Hindustan Unilever impacted the lives of more than 1.1 million people through the Domex toilet academy. It has also been able to reduce waste from manufacturing by more than 52 per cent in 2017. Project Shakti for women’s empowerment has created some 80,000 entrepreneurs.

“HUL believes that a gender balanced workforce is essential to run a sustainable business,” says Mehta. “The company,” Mehta says, “has achieved 39 per cent gender diversity in management positions through consistent efforts towards building a strong talent pipeline of high potential women leaders, nurturing their career aspirations, providing excellent parental support and flexible working options and creating a truly inclusive work environment where they can bring their best selves to work.”