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Indian executives bag key posts in Unilever rejig

MUMBAI: A global rejig in the top management at Unilever has seen a number of Indian executives getting plum postings, with some of them being named country manager roles while others getting to head large geographical regions or global portfolios.

While it was known that Sanjiv Mehta, 53, would be taking over as CEO & MD of
Hindustan UnileverBSE -0.18 % (HUL) following Nitin Paranjpe's (50) elevation as president home care, Unilever, other executives who had previously worked atHULBSE -0.18 % and were offered global assignments have also been offered lucrative roles now, thus adding to the appeal of Indian managers at the euro 51 billion global consumer products giants.

Sanjiv Kakkar (50), who was earlier executive VP Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, has been appointed as EVP NAMET (North 
Africa Middle East, Turkey). So, Kakkar in effect replaces Sanjiv Mehta who is slated to take charge at HUL on Thursday.

In fact, it was this very transitioning that apparently slightly delayed Mehta's move to helm Unilever's Indian subsidiary. It was earlier reported that he would be taking over on October 1, 2013, to sync with Paranjpe's move to the global role. Besides, Mehta also joins the select group called global market executive—part of the 8 clusters Unilever created—reporting to Manwani.

Another big jump in posting has come for Dhaval Buch (51), who is currently senior VP supply chain Asia and Africa. Buch, who was earlier heading supply chain operations in India, will be appointed as global chief procurement officer at Unilever effective January 2014.

On the other hand, Rohit Jawa (47), who started out as area sales manager in 1989, and was till end of September senior VP global marketing operations, has become the chairman and CEO of Unilever Philippines, another important emerging market.

Industry sources said Manwani would have certainly planned the castings well ahead as it only goes on to strengthen his resolve that thought leadership must emanate from India. Over 200 managers of HUL currently serve Unilever globally, which is about 13% of the HUL managerial strength. There are several senior HUL managers working in leadership roles across markets and functions for Unilever globally. Overtime Unilever could see more Indian managers joining the Unilever Executive.
It is important to keep the talent pipeline flowing as there have been a few exits as well. Sanjay Dube, who was at one point considered to be in the running for the India CEO post, but was moved to head Unilever Poland, has left Unilever and is understood to be running his own consultancy.

For Mehta—known for turning around NAME in a tough environment—who begins his new innings on Thursday, it could be a tough task in strategizing the growth prospects of the Rs 25,000 crore maker of Surf Excel detergent and Dove personal care products as discretionary spends have slowed down. HUL's quarter one numbers, with underlying volumes of 4% and sales growing at a modest 7%, pointed towards a challenging environment. Industry analysts expect volume growth to remain tepid in the second quarter as well.

Moreover, Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, has said that underlying sales growth could taper to about 3-3.5% in the September 2013 quarter as against 5% in the June quarter. This could mean the new responsibilities would only come with larger accountability in performance.