HUL future-proofing itself through precision skilling: CMD Sanjiv Mehta

HUL’s CMD Sanjiv Mehta
At a time when digital disruption is growing and traditional players are having to reinvent themselves to compete with nimble-footed online rivals, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), the country's largest consumer goods company, is reskilling its workforce.

Speaking at the Confederation of Indian Industry's National HR Conclave in Mumbai on Thursday, HUL Chairman and Managing Director Sanjiv Mehta said the company was identifying skill sets needed by its employees to navigate the complex and ever-changing world of marketing, increasingly being led by technology.

"It is better to lead the disruption rather than to be swamped by disruption. The organisation of tomorrow will be like amoeba that has no structure at all," he said.

HUL has already begun implementing an end-to-end digital transformation programme which includes leveraging data and technology, as well as artificial intelligence, across the value chain. The company has also set up a digital council, and 85 experiments are under way across functions to help the company get future-ready.

The role of the human resources (HR) team within HUL would increasingly become critical, Mehta said, to help bring about this shift in culture, mindset and leadership as the firm gears up for the future.

"We are moving from mass marketing to massive personalisation to hyper personalisation. HR has become a key participant on the top table. And the role of HR will significantly get enhanced over time," he said.

"If we can focus on precision marketing, then why not precision skilling," he added.

India is among the largest markets in terms of volume for Unilever, with 98 per cent of households in the country using one or more HUL brands, and 45 billion units being manufactured by the company at its factories annually.

"We are feverishly trying to sell to the two per cent we don't reach and keeping our ears to the ground to get insights that could help us speak to them," he said.

HUL's people data centres are already picking up real-time consumer signals and using shopper data to drive marketing programmes to different cohorts at the same time.

The company is also embracing technology on the factory floor by reducing service lead time through an integrated sales and operation planning programme, creating a customer-focused factory network and a faster logistics and distribution footprint.

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