Mumbai: Hindustan Unilever Ltd, the country’s largest listed consumer packaged goods company, saw net profit and sales of its domestic business grow substantially in the September quarter, largely on the back of price increases and volume growth of 7%. However, growth was slower than that in the past few quarters. Nitin Paranjpe, HUL’s managing director, spoke to Mint about the challenges in an environment where consumer sentiment remains subdued. Edited excerpts:
What are the challenges you face today?
Given the inflationary pressures that consumers are experiencing, it is a difficult trading environment. So we remain pleased that we are able to deliver growth, which is competitive and has come along with an expansion in the operating margin.
What are you doing about the slowdown in consumer discretionary spends?
Recent trends as reported by Nielsen during the (September) quarter seem to suggest that volume growth in some of the discretionary categories appear to be falling. It’s something that we would watch. At the same time I don’t want us to read too much into this.
As a part of the overall consumer packaged goods industry, food is a bigger category than home and personal care and is growing at a faster clip. But this does not reflect in your portfolio...
Undoubtedly, our food and beverages portfolio will grow over a period of time and will grow particularly as the Indian market and consumer are getting ready for the development of the packaged foods business in this country.
Is rural growth declining as Nielsen reports?
Over the last two years, we have trebled our direct reach to rural areas as we added one million stores across India. This has made a big difference. Rural (market) is growing at a faster clip than urban for us. We are seeing the evolution of rural India as incomes continue to rise and aspirations continue to rise.