Global Indians: Mehta in fact joins compatriots Paranjpe and Unilever CHRO Leena Nair as one of the three Indians on Unilever’s leadership executive team — a first in the company’s history. However, they aren’t by any means the only Indians working across Unilever’s geographical spread — Samir Singh, former vice president and executive director (personal care) at HUL is Unilever’s global executive vice president of skin cleansing while B V Pradeep, who was director-consumer and markets insight, Asia at HUL, is currently global vice president – consumer & market insight – market clusters at Unilever.
Opening the floodgates: While Indian managerial talent from HUL has regularly been tapped by the parent company Unilever for positions overseas — former HUL (then Hindustan Lever) head Keki Dadiseth served as director-home and personal care (HPC) products division as did M S Banga, who headed Unilever’s food as well as its HPC division — it was Manwani’s elevation as Unilever’s first ever COO and the subsequent reorganisation of the company into 8 geographical clusters that opened the floodgates for expatriation of Indian managers to Unilever’s overseas subsidiaries.
Indianisation of Unilever: Ever since Hindustan Lever, which was what HUL was known as before being renamed in 2005 — though the formal name change happened in 2007 — appointed Prakash Tandon as the first Indian chairman of the company, it has had only one non-Indian as HUL’s head. Given that India is the second largest market for Unilever after the US, contributing 10% to its global sales, it has been leveraging the managerial experience of its Indian executives to shore up its operational strength in other geographies. Only thing that remains now — if an Indian executive can crack the glass ceiling at the company’s HQ to become its CEO.
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