“Almost every major company in India has an HUL man or woman at the top. Among them are Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel; Ignatius Navil Noronha, CEO and MD of DMart; Sanjay-Gupta, country manager of Google India; Raymond Lifestyle CEO Sanjay Behl; Anand Kripalu, MD and CEO of Diageo India; Suresh Narayanan, Nestle India CMD, and many others,” said Sudhir Sitapati, CEO and MD of Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. Sitapati is also a former HUL leader.
The FMCG juggernaut Hindustan Unilever Ltd is known as the "CEO Factory" because of its extraordinary ability to create a large number of top executives in India and worldwide. With an 80-year history, the corporation has built a culture that is authentically middle-class, meritocratic, and uniquely Indian. Sitapati's book 'The CEO Factory' discusses managerial lessons learned from Unilever, HUL's parent firm. The key elements contributing to its CEO-producing prowess include a strong emphasis on marketing as the heart of the organisation and blending science with art. Few leaders who have come out of HUL to become CEOs in recent years are listed below:
1. Sudhir Sitapati - Godrej Consumer Products Limited (GCPL)
Godrej Consumer Products Limited (GCPL) appointed Sudhir Sitapati as its Managing Director and CEO in 2021. Sitapati had a 22-year long career at Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) and had led teams in a variety of categories and roles around the world, spanning across India, Europe, South East Asia, and Africa. Sitapati, who has also served as an Executive Director on the HUL Management Committee since 2016, was key in building HUL's Foods and Refreshments business as one of India's largest.
2. Hemant Bakshi - Ola
Ola's parent firm, ANI Technologies, named Hemant Bakshi as the new CEO. Bakshi, who formerly served as Executive Vice President of the Marketplace and Chairperson of Unilever Indonesia, has considerable global business leadership expertise. His tenure at Ola began on January 2024.
3. Sandeep Kohli - Novel Jewels Under Aditya Birla Group
Novel Jewels, part of the Aditya Birla Group, has named Sandeep Kohli as CEO, beginning April 2024, as per reports. Kohli, a global business executive, previously worked as General Manager and Beauty & Wellbeing Director at Unilever Indonesia. He has extensive experience in strategy development, innovation, P&L management, digital marketing, organisational design, and people development.
4. Leena Nair - Chanel
In one of the biggest CXO moves seen worldwide in recent times, Chanel appointed Leena Nair as its Global CEO in 2022. Nair is also the first ever Indian-origin Global CEO of French luxury fashion house. Nair previously served as Unilever's Chief Human Resource Officer and was a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive. Nair's emphasis on human-centered workplaces and compassionate leadership has had a long-term impact, helping Unilever earn recognition as the top FMCG graduate employer in 54 countries.
5 Prabha Narasimhan - Colgate
Prabha Narasimhan's transition from leading the Home Care category at Hindustan Unilever to her present position as managing director of Colgate-Palmolive India and Special Projects Vice President for Colgate's Asia Pacific Division demonstrates her deep knowledge of Customer Development, Consumer Marketing, and Innovation. Her nearly 25 years of diversified experience across multiple categories reflect the expertise she contributes to her work at Colgate, and her appointment in March 2022 demonstrated industry recognition of her skills and leadership abilities.