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Mumbai: Having taken the helm of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) in April 2008 at about the same time the global financial crisis took hold, Nitin Paranjpe has led India’s largest consumer packaged goods company on an aggressive growth charge over the last five years despite a tough macroeconomic environment.

Paranjpe will move to the Unilever Leadership Executive with effect from 1 October, the company said on Friday.

Having joined the company as a management trainee in 1982 and risen through the ranks in the post-liberalization period, Paranjpe, 50, has always been something of a star in the system and was tipped for a leadership role in the Unilever Plc universe quite early on in his career. When he became chief executive officer (CEO) at 46, he was the youngest-ever at the post at Unilever’s Indian unit.

The company’s market capitalization has risen nearly threefold from 51,283.69 crore in 2008 to 143,394 crore in 2013.

Net profit has grown from 2,504.51 crore in the 15-month period in 2008-09 to 3,828.98 crore in financial year 2013. Sales in the five years have grown 5.71% on a compounded annual growth rate basis from 20,457.95 crore to 27,003.99 crore. (The financial year changed to a April-March period from January-December in 2008-09.)

“He has a great blend of strategic and operator ability and combined them well," said Dalip Sehgal, a former HUL director who was with the company from 1982 to 2007 and now runs his own consulting firm.

As a marketing professional, Paranjpe is very attuned to ground realities and able to connect with people across the system, said Abraham Koshy, a professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

“He has risen within the ranks to lead the company and is very results-oriented and focused," he said.

Known as a people’s person, Paranjpe has shown himself able to connect with the changing Indian consumers and the young. He launched programmes such as reverse mentoring, which involved 25-year-olds guiding their older colleagues on social media and making them more tech-savvy.

Under his tenure, the company has been chosen as the No. 1 recruiter at India’s management schools for four years, according to the Nielsen Campus Track-B School Survey.

Paranjpe started out as an area sales manager for detergents and then became product manager in the segment. He has worked across the home and personal care categories and overseas as an executive assistant to the chairman and executive committee at Unilever in London in 2000.

In London, he was also involved in a review of the organization’s structure.

On his return to India in 2002, Paranjpe became the category head of fabric wash and regional brand director (Asia) for several laundry and household cleaning (HHC) brands.

In 2004, he became vice-president, home care (laundry and HHC), India, responsible for the home care business. He was appointed executive director for the home and personal care business in March 2006.

Paranjpe has a degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA in marketing from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. He is a member of the nomination and remuneration committee, stakeholder relationship committee and corporate social responsibility committee of HUL.

To be sure, the man who takes over from Paranjpe on 1 October will have his work cut out because macroeconomic conditions have become even more difficult. With the parent having increased its stake in the subsidiary to the maximum 75% possible, new CEO Sanjiv Mehta will need to push hard against the tide of sluggish economic growth and cut-throat competition from rivals. He has a tough act to follow.

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Updated: 26 Jul 2013, 11:41 PM IST
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