Unilever spies South Asian growth

1 December 2014

KARACHI/DHAKA: Unilever, the FMCG multinational, regards Pakistan and Bangladesh as emerging markets with high potential for long-term growth, the company's CEO has stated.

Speaking while on a two-day visit to Pakistan, his third in six years, Paul Polman said Unilever's operations in Pakistan were among the best performing units within the company's global operations, the Express Tribune reported.

Its local businesses recorded fourfold growth over the last eight years, he said, the highest growth rate in the "Unilever world" in 2014, and there is room for more.

There is "significant scope to penetrate the rural markets where two-thirds of Pakistan's 200 million people reside," he explained.

He was speaking as he inaugurated a rural customer development initiative in the village of Wagrah in Punjab.

Considered to be a core driver of Unilever's future growth in Pakistan, the initiative also promotes sustainability at the village level and will be rolled out to thousands of villages across the country by 2020.

Sustainability was also an important theme in an interview Polman gave to the Daily Star of Bangladesh.

He reaffirmed Unilever's full commitment to its business in the country, which is seen as representing a long-term growth opportunity because of increasing salaries, its young population and a growing middle class.

But as people's incomes grew and they spent more on hygiene and personal grooming products, Polman said Unilever had helped to change consumer behaviour through various initiatives under its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP).

"The Lifebuoy Lifesaver programme, for example, helped teach hand-washing techniques with soap to almost 18 million people in Bangladesh," he said.

Awareness of the USLP programme also helped to attract talent as Bangladeshis endorsed Unilever as a preferred employer, he added.

"Our efforts to increase agility, inclusion and diversity in our workplace resonate well with the aspirations of the youth and this in many ways has helped to increase their preference for Unilever.

"What attracts talent is finally the underlying purpose that drives a business beyond just profits. Our purpose at Unilever is to make Sustainable Living commonplace and the USLP brings this alive by embedding sustainability in our business."

Data sourced from Express Tribune, Daily Star; additional content by Warc staff