Unilever to shift thinking to New Delhi, says CEO

MUMBAI: FMCG behemoth Unilever is shifting its organisational focus to emerging markets to better anticipate the needs of a growing but "ever more demanding" class of consumers, said CEO Paul Polman at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Polman charted the company‘s strategic move to the Far East and the Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) to benefit from their mushrooming populations.

"We have to shift our thinking to New Delhi, not New York”, Polman affirmed.

Unilever‘s brands are traded in 180 countries and 56 per cent of its revenues come from non-European countries. The company expects this to rise to 70-75 per cent by 2020.

Polman underlined that Bric countries will be home to the world‘s [fastest growing] populations and their consumers will get increasingly more demanding.

Polman amplified the "superconnectivity" of the internet that provides companies like Unilever with huge commercial opportunity to reach the next one billion consumers. He also highlighted the importance of Facebook.

Polman was talking after Unilever announced a major restructure broadening its category organisation to four divisions and the promotion of Harish Manwani to chief operating officer.

On Friday, the company announced that president for Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Harish Manwani will don the role of COO from 1 September.

Also, the FMCG is moving from the current HPC (Home and Personal Care) and Foods categorisation to create four new categories reporting to the global CEO.

These would be Personal Care (to be headed by Dave Lewis, currently president,Americas), Refreshment - Ice Cream and Beverages (Ice Cream EVP Kevin Havelock), Food (Skin EVP Antoine de Saint Affrique), and Home Care (Laundry EVP Randy Quinn and Household Care senior VP Sean Gogarty).

The new structure will be put in place in the quarter of July to September, and can get fully operational before December 2011.

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