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Business News/ Companies / Data, cyber and AI: At HUL, directors must keep up with changing times
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Data, cyber and AI: At HUL, directors must keep up with changing times

According to the skillset statistics shared by HUL in its annual report for the year 2023-2024, the company found out that while 92% of its Board had leadership experience, barely 33% were aware about the details of cybersecurity, data governance and information technology.

HUL will become among the first of the large companies which officially adopts an additional set of skill sets that its Board must have. (REUTERS)Premium
HUL will become among the first of the large companies which officially adopts an additional set of skill sets that its Board must have. (REUTERS)

Consumer goods company Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) is overhauling the skill sets its top leadership—the Board — to keep pace with the changing times and be aligned to the demands of the consumer. 

India’s largest packaged consumer goods company Board will now have to get into the details of cybersecurity, ESG (environmental, social, and governance), data governance among other topics that will impact the firm's growth and talent retention capabilities going ahead.

"In the last few years, the external environment in which the Company operates and the regulatory framework governing it have undergone significant changes. With an ever-increasing focus on cyber security, artificial intelligence, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) aspects, risk management, the skills/capabilities required of Directors in the context of business for efficient functioning of the Board has also evolved," said the company in its annual report for the year 2023-2024. 

Also Read: HUL: Is another weak quarter a cause of panic for investors?

"In view of the above, the Board of Directors based on the recommendation of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee approved and adopted the revised Board Skill Matrix of the Company on 26th February, 2024," the report added.

HUL will become among the first of the large companies which officially adopts an additional set of skill sets that its Board must have. Wile earlier some of the prominent skill sets were defined as a must have for the Board, this is the first time HUL has measured the extent of these skill sets that the directors have.

The skillset statistics

According to the skillset statistics shared in the report, HUL found out that while 92% of its Board had leadership experience, barely 33% were aware about the details of cybersecurity, data governance and information technology. The entire Board was aware and skilled in need for having a "business with a purpose" while 75% had "experience of overseeing large and complex business operations requiring proven administrative and managerial skills".

The company's board currently comprises Nitin Paranjpe, Rohit Jawa, Leo Puri, Kalpana Morparia, Tarun Bajaj, Neelam Dhawan, among others.

Also Read: How HUL's Rohit Jawa plans to beat India's clock speed

HUL has a portfolio of over 50 brands, spanning 16 FMCG categories. In FY24, the company reported a turnover of 59,579 crore. The consumer firm's governance structure is multi-tiered, comprising the Board of Directors, Board Committees, CEO & MD and the management committee.

In April, the company had announced the appointment of B.P. Biddappa to HUL management committee as executive director, human resources and chief people, transformation and sustainability officer for South Asia. Biddappa's role is to lead the people's agenda for South Asia as well as drive the transformation interventions from a business, organization, and sustainability perspective.

The changes

The change comes at a time with India becoming an important market for Unilever globally and talent emerging out of India has become visible within the company. In fact, HUL is touted to be a “CEO factory" churning out executives who now hold top leadership positions—CEOs and CXOs—across companies the world over.

Meanwhile, search firms are also on the look out for independent directors well versed with changing business needs as more than 1,000 independent directors are set to retire by June 2024. The empty positions are pushing companies across sectors to hunt for managing directors and chief executive officers who can take on the baton.

“Board searches have become very specific. For instance, clients want directors who understand sustainability, digital first businesses, etc. Earlier it used to be, ‘get us a director’ but now the parameters against which they are shortlisted is changing," said K Sudarahan is Regional Chair- Asia, at search firm EMA Partners India.

“Firms want a board which understands and not necessarily having worked in new age businesses, exposed to ESG or AI, but are aware enough to have views on their impact on businesses. While stature and quality of experience is extremely important, a good understanding of current trends and practices are critical," added Sudarshan.

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Devina Sengupta
Devina tracks and writes on workplaces, human resources and education for Mint. She also occaisionally writes an opinion column. She hosts a podcast on interesting HR trends in corporate India called The Working Life.
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Published: 24 May 2024, 12:21 PM IST
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