Harish Manwani, who became Unilever’s first chief operating officer more than three years ago, is set to retire from the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant in December.
Manwani, who joined Hindustan Unilever as a management trainee in 1976, will however continue as the non-executive chairman of the company’s Indian unit — Hindustan Unilever.
“Harish has been instrumental in the transformation of the company. Under his leadership we have seen a step-change in our goto-market organisation and there has been a relentless focus on flawless execution globally. He has role-modelled the 4G sustainable growth model – competitive, consistent, profitable and responsible -which has become such a strong focal point for the markets,” said Unilever CEO Paul Polman. As COO, Manwani tried to align market clusters across the world, creating a more integrated company and helping resource allocation to be done more efficiently across markets that allowed the business to be managed more dynamically especially amid slowing consumer demand.
“Today, Unilever is in a strong position with a clear strategy and capabilities to drive long-term responsible growth. This makes it a good time for me to make this personal transition. I look forward to working with Paul and the leadership team over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition and to further build our growth agenda,” said Manwani, 62, the brains behind the company’s successful challenge to Colgate’s dominance in personal care segment in India in the 1990s.
Manwani has been part of the ET Awards jury in the past. Apart from being a senior and experienced Unilever hand, Manwani has first-hand knowledge of the challenges in emerging markets.
When he took over as director of personal care in what was then called Hindustan Lever in 1995, competitors including Colgate enjoyed a big lead in categories such as toothpaste.
Manwani implemented a marketing plan that brought Lever to within striking distance of Colgate and boosted the firm’s already strong position in shampoos. He joined the Indian unit after studying management at JBIMS and became president of Unilever’s Asian and African business a decade ago.