Mumbai: Unilever Plc, the world’s second largest consumer goods company, on Friday named Harish Manwani its new chief operating officer (COO), as a part of a global reorganization.
Manwani, 57, is currently chairman of the Anglo-Dutch company’s Indian unit, Hindustan Unilever Ltd, and president of its operations in Asia, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe. These markets together contributed more than half of Unilever’s €44.26 billion (Rs2.84 trillion) revenue in 2010.
Unilever has created the post of COO to scale up operations in emerging markets, and reoriented its focus to product categories rather than geographic regions.
Hish Hish Manwani named Unilever COO. Dimas Ardian/Bloombergnamed Unilever COO
“This is a very exciting next stage for Unilever,” Manwani said in an emailed statement on Friday. “The changes will deliver a stronger structure to drive accelerated growth, more speed, better connectivity, greater simplification and lower cost. They will help us achieve our ambition of doubling the size of the business.”
Manwani will step into his new role on 1 September, taking responsibility for all markets “...in order to drive speed-to-market behind further simplification and efficiency”, the company said in a statement.
“Unilever now has over half its turnover in the emerging markets, where over the last 10 years growth has been close to double digits. We have an opportunity to better support this footprint of the business, to keep our strong momentum, with a more globally aligned country and category organisation.” Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said.
Manwani joined Hindustan Unilever, India’s biggest maker of consumer products, as a management trainee in 1976. Nineteen years later, in 1995, he was named to the company’s board as director responsible for its personal products business. He took on more international responsibilities when he moved to the UK five years later as senior vice-president for the global haircare and oral care categories.
Global consumer goods companies are increasingly looking at Indian-origin managers for top positions. In April, Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc appointed Rakesh Kapoor as its chief executive from September. PepsiCo Inc.’s chairman and chief executive Indra Nooyi has been at the helm of the US food and beverage company since 2006.
In other changes on Friday, Unilever reorganized its business under four broad product categories—personal care, refreshments, food and homecare—moving away from its earlier geography-based categories.
The maker of Knorr seasonings, Dove soap and Surf detergent has appointed presidents for each of these new categories, who will report directly to Polman.
“Over the past few years, we have seen a significant step-up in our innovation success rate and our speed to roll them out across markets. The new structure will further accelerate this,” said Polman, who has pledged to double Unilever’s revenue after a decade of sluggish growth.
Unilever reported first-quarter sales in April that missed analysts’ estimates and trailed rivals Nestle SA, the world’s largest food company.
“With over 70% of our future growth coming from the developing and emerging markets, this new organizational structure will enable us to be closer to our consumers in our fast-growing economies and bring them bigger and better innovations in the everyday products that we already offer to them,” Manwani said.
The new structures will be put in place during the July-September quarter and will be fully operational before the year ends, the company said.
The Unilever businesses that Manwani runs have been expanding at 18-19% annually, with emerging economies in Asia being “a very important part” of the growth, Manwani told Bloomberg in an interview earlier in June.
Unilever is expanding in developing economies to offset stagnating sales in Europe and the US. More than 55% of Unilever’s business now comes from emerging markets, Manwani said.
Bloomberg contributed to this story.