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Senior executives head for exit at Hindustan Unilever

At least eight senior and middle-level executives have quit Hindustan Unilever over the past two months after spending more than a decade. Five highest-paying professions

, ET Bureau|
Mar 29, 2010, 11.42 AM IST
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MUMBAI: At least eight senior and middle-level executives have quit Hindustan Unilever over the past two months after spending more than a decade with India’s largest fast moving consumer goods company, indicating a festering dissatisfaction with pressures both within and outside the organisation.

Among those who have quit are Sandeep Kataria, global brand director, Comfort who is joining as CMO, Yum Restaurants; Rishi Pardaal, GM, South, who is moving to Marico Bangladesh as CEO and Anuradha Agarwal, marketing manager, hair, who has joined Vodafone as VP, brand marketing (See graphic).

At one level, senior employees find growth opportunities limiting even as competing brands are giving HUL’s brands a tough time in the marketplace, said a company official who did not wish to be quoted.

The HUL spokesperson, however, said the attrition rate was significantly below industry level. “What we have is natural attrition, which is essential and healthy for all organisations in terms of both talent management and development,” the spokesperson said.

HUL has been facing pressures from competitors like P&G, Godrej and L’Oreal across categories like detergents, toilet soaps and hair care at the top end and from indigenous brands like Ghari, Godrej No. 1, Santoor, Chik and Dabur at the next level.



Another reason for the dissatisfaction is the division of the brand manager function into brand building, brand development and customer marketing roles over the past decade. The new roles have restricted a brand manager’s exposure, said the official quoted earlier.

Moreover, multiyear plans laid down for brands have been changed, and local brand managers are being asked to report on 30-day schedules, adding to the pressure. “The organisation is a pyramid, and when you reach a certain senior level you want more acceleration in the decisions you can make, but there is a lack of velocity I have to deal with, which is disappointing,” said an executive who did not wish to be quoted.

The disquiet has not gone unnoticed at HUL, which has devised the ‘multi-lane progress’ as a sort of antidote. While it will take some time for the process to come into effect, it allows for professionals to choose between brand building, brand development and sales functions in the earlier stage of their career. Once they have identified what suits them, the best performers are given larger responsibilities at regional or national levels in their respective functions.

In the world outside, there is something that still works for HUL: it is a sought-after employer on B-school campuses. The company was rated as the dream company to work for by graduating students across the top 20 B-Schools in India as per AC Nielsen’s Campus Track Survey, says the company spokesperson.

Today, companies like Nokia, Dabur and Cadbury are shining examples of what HUL “alumni” have achieved outside. Perhaps it’s time the organisation needs to take a long, hard look at itself, says the executive.
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