The chairman and managing director of HUL was pushing through the biggest decentralisation of decision-making the company had seen. The only points of discussion were the valuation and the final clearance to do the deal. Today Patanjali rarely features in the questions.
But, the core of the HUL philosophy is in developing leaders. In this interview over almost two hours, Nair outlines the rigour that goes into the HUL process in identifying and developing leaders. Recently, HUL was ranked as the best employer in a survey.
What has HUL done and been doing that has helped it gain that ranking? Let me give a little bit of perspective about the things that we are doing which are helping us to stay as the best employer.
And I break it up into three broad parts. The first thing, without doubt, is leadership development which is the core Hul leadership what we do. We have been known for identifying and grooming leaders, the leadership training we give so that in years some they hit the Management Committee, the top executive team, of the company.
And that starts from day one. These core beliefs have been in this company for the last 75 years. So that belief that from Day 1 anyone who walks into this company has the potential to be a leader, and every leader in the company, irrespective of responsibility, has to help build that person, that is really well understood and that makes all the difference.
The reality is that the ownership of the leadership principle is what makes the difference. Let me give you few examples. One is the amount of time that senior leaders will spend on talent.
No less than per cent of time will be spent by senior leaders for planning, for talent acquisition, who to bring, how do we bring, and also on questions such as: So, twice a year, the management committee would go away for a day to discuss with the top people, the next level would discuss the next and so on and so forth.
So we have the whole cascading system where right up to 5, people in this company, the last executive, supervisor who is on the front line managing one of our 40 factories for us, is included, other than for work men, for whom also we run a comprehensive suite of capability and leadership development initiatives.
How does HUL ensure a level of mentoring for your management staff? When a business leadership trainee joins us as management trainee, he or she has to have a coach, who is the senior manager, who is supposed to be friend, philosopher and guide, a mentor, who is normally a member of the Management Committee and a tutor who is his immediate manager who helps him and guides him on projects.
What we do is when a trainee completes his or her training stint, he or she gets feedback on how well they did, did they manage to learn, how they delivered on their projects. But equally, the mentors, coaches, tutors are evaluated on whether they have done a good job in building their trainees.
If the trainee says that the coach is not worth having, the coach is pulled up. He or she will not get a trainee for the next year. So it is very serious. Leaders are not only given responsibilities, they are held accountable for it. It is a big job, it is a privilege to train others to become leaders for this company.
So if you do it well, fantastic. So people know about the business leadership training and the fact that we send people on a rural stint to get a real understanding of rural India which forms a bulk of our consumers; equally they go on an international stint to get exposure to working across cultures and geographies … this is a holistic programme designed to give trainees exposure across the business and we manage it with rigour and discipline.
I still remember the best moments in this company when I was a management trainee, living in a village, understanding what it takes to influence and change, even if it is some people in a little village in India with no roads to reach there.
These are life transforming experiences as a leader. So while all of that is there, little things that we do to push rigour, to make sure that this is done seriously, that makes all the difference.
How do you make that assessment that ensures people are learning all the while? We have processes like leadership differentiation, which is a nine-box matrix where every person is plotted in the relevant groups. So all general managers will be plotted together, executives on a particular of kind of job will be plotted together to see who really are the top guys, who have the potential to go to the next level and who are sustained high-performers.
Normally, you are plotted after you have done about three years in the company. Because we believe that it takes you about a year to learn your job when you come in and another year to begin contributing and the third year to see the impact of your contribution. Because they really see investment in the leadership development and it has been done consistently for some time.Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) is an Indian consumer goods company based in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
It is a subsidiary of Unilever, a British-Dutch company.  HUL's products include foods, beverages, cleaning agents, personal care products and water purifiers. Mr Srinivas Phatak Executive Director, Finance and IT and Chief Financial Officer.
Mr Srinivas Phatak (46) is the Executive Director, Finance and IT and Chief . How do you hone the leadership potential of young talent that you bring in? HUL recruits management graduates from Top B-schools of the country, like IIMs, FMS Delhi, XLRI,ISB, JBIMS etc every year, in the realm of Marketing, Finance, HR and IT.
For Leena Nair, 40, Executive Director, HR, Hindustan Unilever, the transition last year to the consumer goods major's new office at Andheri in Mumbai has been exciting. Hulu is the leading premium streaming service that offers instant access to live and on demand channels, original series and films, and a premium library of TV and .
An organisation that is serious about leadership development makes it a way of life The critical role of a “leader” in HUL is to create talent and capability for the future Leadership development is ingrained in our company culture and is aligned to the vision of being a high performance.