He said that the effects of the pandemic were just a pause in India’s consumption and growth story. “It has been a speed-breaker in India’s growth journey, but will not change the trajectory.”
Hindustan Unilever (HUL) will rely on three drivers to propel its future growth agenda over the next decade — sustainable business strategy, building an intelligent enterprise that will further embed data, technology and analytics, and leadership in the future, the company’s chairman and managing director Sanjiv Mehta told shareholders at the company’s 88th annual general meeting, on Tuesday.
He said that the effects of the pandemic were just a pause in India’s consumption and growth story. “It has been a speed-breaker in India’s growth journey, but will not change the trajectory.” A growing middle class, having one of the youngest populations in the world, growing internet penetration enabling better access than ever before, sets India as “poised for unprecedented growth,” he said.
Speaking of the coming decade for HUL, Mehta said the company was determined to end the debate on whether there was a trade-off between purpose and performance. “We realise that being purpose-led alone will not be enough. To be successful, we will also have to be future-fit by being fully digitised, more innovative, and faster to respond to the many changes shaping people’s lives every day,” he said. HUL plans to do this by expanding in high growth segments, leading in the channels of the future, creating brands that resonate purpose and building a future fit organisational culture, he added.
According to Mehta, building an ‘Intelligent Enterprise’ will require moving away from the traditional linear value chain to a non-linear ecosystem by building distinctive capabilities across the organisation. He said this will entail making core business smarter and efficient, which will be data-led and machine augmented.
“This will build a value chain that delivers for scale & efficiency of the large while building nimbleness of smalls. The HUL of the future will be a web of intelligent ecosystems – the consumer ecosystem, customer ecosystem, operations ecosystem with data, technology, and analytics at the core,” he said.
Highlighting the challenges that present leaders of the corporate world face, Mehta said the jobs of leaders, in a world marked by disruption and threat, have never been more challenging nor more important. “Leading into this future is not for the meek. But neither is it for the arrogant, the bull-headed, or the blindly self-righteous. We need the brave, but we also need the modest; we need those who hold themselves accountable, but we also need those who are curious and experimentative,” he said.
He added that the companies will have to be steered through unknowns, and leaders of tomorrow will need to be comfortable with both calm and chaos. He said that an important element of leadership development will be to ensure that early in their careers, managers are moved across roles that provide a diverse set of experiences including some tough and challenging assignments. Compassion, sense-making, collaboration, purpose-driven, respond to crisis with speed and agility and brutal optimism will be important traits for the leaders of the future, Mehta said.