Making deep-rooted change is usually much more difficult in large organisations than in smaller ones. And when such change has to be transformative and in keeping with changing realities in the marketplace, the challenge is even more daunting. That’s why the transformative changes currently under way at the ₹37,660-crore Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the country’s largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, assume critical importance. HUL, for decades known as the breeding ground for the country’s finest managers, is in the midst of being re-imagined, even as it remains true to its philosophy of being “purpose-led” and “future-fit”. At the core of this re-imagination, being helmed by HUL’s affable 58-year-old chairman and MD Sanjiv Mehta, are innovation and technology. Using these two tools, HUL is facing new market realities in a country where consumer tastes change every few kilometres. As we stand on the threshold of a new decade, we at Fortune India could think of no better company than HUL to represent how essential innovation is if companies and their leaders have to face the changes a new India presents before them. As Mehta says succinctly: “Successful organisations treat innovation as lifeblood. They keep reinventing themselves to remain contemporary and that is how they emerge winners in the long run.”
Fortune India’s Arnika Thakur and Aveek Datta, who put together the cover story for this issue—themed “India 2020”—find that the culture of innovation has pervaded across all levels of HUL and several of these innovations are also being exported by the Indian company to the Unilever universe. One of the key elements of the “new HUL” has been the ‘Winning in Many Indias’ strategy which Mehta put in place after he took charge. This recognises the heterogeneity of the Indian market, where products often have to be tailored to suit various regional preferences. Another part of this strategy is the 14x15 gameplan, where the entire organisational matrix at HUL has been divided into14 geographical clusters and 15 country category business teams to accord an even sharper focus on market segments. Under Mehta’s watchful eye, tech and data platforms are also being used to ensure the FMCG giant reacts quickly to changing preferences based on trends which data throws up. Importantly, this redesigned matrix across the company also leads to managerial talent being more entrepreneurial and empowered, and the entire organisation becoming far more nimble than earlier. As Mehta points out, no company should think itis too big to fail.
Apart from the fascinating HUL story, this issue also looks at the trend of consolidation running across several sectors of the Indian economy. As India gets ready to enter the2020s, some sectors have begun showing signs of maturity, with players coming together either owing to market exigencies or the need for stronger balance sheets to tackle sectoral challenges. Fortune India’steam of journalists spoke to several large players, analysts, and experts across some of the key sectors of the economy to bring you a detailed report on how these sectors are witnessing consolidation and what it means for the future. Whether it is steel, cement, telecom, financial services, aviation ore-commerce, consolidation has been a common theme across these industries. The jury, however, is still out on whether fewer players necessarily mean stronger ones. The answer to this will lie in the next decade.
(The Fortune India December 2019 issue is on stands. Subscribe here)