Unilever learning lessons from India

11 June 2009

MUMBAI: Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company, is "taking the learnings from India to other markets to handle the recession and offer value to consumers," according to Manvinder Singh Banga, president of the company's foods, home and personal care division.

Banga, who previously led Hindustan Unilever, argued that while the recession "has hit markets globally, India genuinely has a change to keep going at the current momentum especially with a government mandate to encourage growth."

Among the lessons Unilever has learned in India – and, indeed, from other emerging markets like China and Brazil – is an increased emphasis on "value", which is of growing importance to consumers around the world.

"We are selling a lot more through dollar stores, which is similar to the sachets sold in India," Banga said, a move he argued was necessitated by changing priorities among shoppers.

While in the past consumers would "pay huge amount for frills", now they "are now questioning their purchases and thinking hard," meaning that manufacturers like Unilever "have to offer absolutely top rate value."

Many of the FMCG firm's customers are also becoming "expert" in terms of seeking out value and "finding good quality at a cheaper price," Banga said.

Unilever is also planning to heighten its activity in India, particularly with regard to innovation, having recently conducted projects like "global skin lightening research and the direct application laundry wash business" in its centres there.

Speaking at the broader impact of the recession on the country, Banga argued that if it "seizes the moment, it will come out stronger."

Data Economic Times; additional content by WARC staff