The two HULS from Unilever: Hindustan & Hindustani

NEW DELHI: Hindustan Unilever's parent company, the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate, Unilever, is taking on hues of Hindustani with the recent announcement elevating two senior Indian executives into global leadership roles — while Nitin Paranjpe becomes only the second Indian after Harish Manwani to be named as the company’s COO, Sanjeev Mehta has been named as the Unilever’s South Asia president. Incidentally, all three — Manwani, Paranjpe and Mehta headed Unilever’s Indian subsidiary, HUL.

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.