Unilever, Reckitt elevate Indian executives to plum global positions

Consumer goods giants UnileverBSE 0.56 % and Reckitt Benckiser elevated two Indian executives into larger global leadership roles, underscoring the rising profile of managers with inherent knowledge of challenging but high-potential countries such as India as companies shift focus to emerging markets to maintain growth momentum.

Nitin Paranjpe will become the head of Unilever’s foods and refreshment business after the Anglo-Dutch company completed the merger of the two segments to create its largest business unit. Reckitt Benckiser, which owns the Dettol and Harpic brands, named India managing director Nitish Kapoor as the head of its health business in North America.

For Unilever, foods is the second largest category.It contributed 12.5 billion to its total sales in 2016 when refreshments accounted for 10 billion. Together, these would have a 43% share in total sales. Unilever is merging the two businesses in a bid to unlock expansion opportunities and grow margins faster.

Paranjpe is currently Unilever’s president for the homecare business, which reported 10 billion of revenue last year. The new appointment is effective January 1, 2018, a Unilever spokesperson said.

At Reckitt Benckiser, Kapoor will move to the US and report to its India-born CEO Rakesh Kapoor. The elevation of Indian executives reflects the increasing importance of the country and other emerging markets for multinationals as markets in the West have stopped growing. India particularly is an important destination for these companies, given its prime demographics and faster population growth.

The number of Indian leaders at global consumer goods companies has been increasing steadily. Unilever has more than 200 Indian managers at global level as the company tries to win consumers in emerging markets.
Paranjpe has risen rapidly through the ranks. He was the youngest CEO at the Indian unit of the consumer giant and had a highly successful tenure at the helm of HUL before he moved to his current role as president of the homecare business in 2013. Under his watch, HUL’s share price rose from Rs 230 to a peak of Rs 725. Its annual revenue grew to Rs 26,000 crore from Rs 16,000 crore during the same period. Packaged foods business for Unilever has been slowing for the past few years and was the wo ..

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