Reimagining Business in Changing Times


In the fast-changing and increasingly complex global environment, it is imperative for companies reimagining not only their business models but more fundamentally their role in the society.

The major challenges that the world faces today are growing inequality, technological unemployment and resource scarcity. In India, a country well-poised to leapfrog into the future, the challenge is two-fold: that of employment generation and employability. Moreover, businesses will have to work with educators and government to develop skill development programmes in order to ensure that the workforce of tomorrow has future-ready skills.

We have to find solutions to the questions on how businesses can grow, remain relevant and at the same time earn their right to exist within the communities.

ReimaginingThe double-edged sword of technology   

Companies will need to stimulate innovation, accelerate digital transition, reduce costs and run their businesses more efficiently to face the challenges of this new world.

India – opportunities and challenges

India is uniquely positioned to leapfrog with the technological advances and at the same time avoid the trap holes that the rest of the world has experienced in their journeys from ‘developing’ to ‘developed’.

India has the youngest population profiles in the world with over 65% of its population below the age of 35. While this can become a demographic dividend for the country, herein also lies India’s biggest challenge. The challenge is two-fold: of creating enormous employment generation opportunities and raising the employability and skills of the Indian youth. Businesses must step in to lift the capabilities and put as much emphasis on developing shop floor workers as managerial talent.

Harish Mangwani, Charman, Hindustan Unilever

Reimagining business

Business should be able to do well by doing good to the society. In the reimagining era,  we have to move from the 3G model (consistent, competitive and profitable growth) to a 4G model where the 4th G recognises the importance of ‘responsible’ growth.

Innovating for the future

In order to grow, businesses need to constantly innovate. This requires companies to embrace technology and creativity and bring both ‘magic and logic’ into their product experience and go-to-market models.

For example, Unilever’s People Data Centre, analyses trends from social media, consumer care lines and digital marketing, and turns millions of ‘conversations’ into innovative brand ideas for the core portfolio. Unilever is now able to reach out to more consumers by capturing and analysing their digital footprint, geo-location and in-store purchase behaviour.

Organising for growth

Innovations for the changing world need to be underpinned by an organisational structure that fosters agility, connectivity and diversity. ‘Winning in many Indias’  has made the business even more agile and responsive to the evolving marketplace. Unilever’s ‘Connected For Growth’ initiative has further brought the country and global category teams together to promote a culture of collaboration, experimentation, and empowerment, and enable faster decision-making with speed and agility.

Developing talent and organisational capabilities

Attracting, developing and retaining the best people will always be at the hearts of winning organisations. Unilever’s training programmes are beginning to reflect the needs of the millennials who are going to form 60% of our workforce by 2020.

Attracting, developing and retaining the best people will always be at the heart of winning organisations. Our ability to do so is reflected in the fact that during 2016, Unilever was the number one FMCG Graduate Employer of Choice in 34 of the 60 countries where we actively recruit.

Growing responsibly

A Unilever study conducted across five countries shows that a third of consumers are now buying brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. Organisations of the future need to be purpose-driven and values-led.

In order to grow, companies need to constantly innovate across their value chains, invest in new business models, create non-hierarchical outcome-based organisational structures and build diverse talent bases which should possess skills and capabilities to operate in a digital world.

Most importantly, a good business model needs to reimagine its role in society and commit to doing well by doing good.

The write up is based on the edited excerpts of Mr. Harish Mangwani’s speech at the 84th annual general meeting of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). Mr. ’Mangwani is the Chairman of HUL.