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Unilever chief expects to double India business

News, 12 September 2017
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MUMBAI: Paul Polman, CEO of Anglo-Dutch FMCG giant, Unilever, has suggested that the company’s doubling in the next decade is a “no-brainer,” as the world’s largest democracy will probably grow much faster than the United States.

“I am not giving guidance but the assumption we double (in India) in the next 10 years or seven-eight years is a no-brainer. Because US is not going to double,” Polman told the Economic Times in a wide-ranging interview.

“India as an economy is going to do better than other parts of the world. If we fail, then we would be the first ones to be very disappointed.”

In the last eight years, Polman continued, Unilever’s Hindustan business (HUL) has doubled since its creation in 2009. Such an opportunity is indicative of India’s enviable economic outlook: “I would love to have an economy of your size, growing at 5-6%,” he said.

Speaking at the end of a three-day tour of the country, which contributes around 9% – €4.5 billion – of global revenues to the company, the Unilever Chief intoned on some of the contextual events that will affect the company.

Not least, political changes in the last year have touched the whole economy. Narendra Modi’s key reforms, such as demonetisation and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax were seen as controversial. The question, according to Polman, is “how quickly can [Modi] get the country with him”.

However, in essence, he continued, the initiatives are “right and to the benefit of the economy”, Polman added.

“Here, you see a country that is changing in a substantial way. India was underperforming versus its potential and the answers were in-house and not somewhere else. India is in charge of its own destiny. You will become increasingly more attractive to global companies for investments.”  

Globally, Polman hinted that e-commerce would likely be the next battleground, though “we don’t know how big e-commerce is going to be. Nobody knew how big Amazon was going to be.” Despite this rise, he is confident that Unilever products would command higher shares on e-commerce than conventional channels.

“We are spending a lot of time on that. It's changing so fast and changing consumer habits so fast … We need to be constantly on our feet.”

Data sourced from the Economic Times

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