Gopal Vittal Quits Hindustan Unilever

Second top-level exit in the last one year; Hemant Bakshi a logical choice to fill the void

After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and it's the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably now tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment.

mg_63550_gopal_vithal_sm_280x210.jpgIn a surprise move, Gopal Vittal, executive director of the home and personal care business and considered the second most powerful executive after CEO Nitin Paranjpe at Hindustan Unilever, one of the country's largest multinational, announced he was quitting the firm.
Insiders say the company tried to persuade Vittal to change his mind for the past several weeks, but he eventually stuck to his decision to move on. Vittal has not disclosed what he plans to do next. Speculation has it that it could even include starting up a new entrepreneurial venture.

Gopal Vittal, (executive director of the home and personal care business, HUL)

Vittal's exit leaves a big void at the upper echelons of the Rs 19,000 cr consumer packaged goods behemoth. As the boss of the home and personal care business, which accounts for three-fourths per cent of HUL's revenues, Vittal was effectively the second most powerful leader inside HUL after CEO Nitin Paranjpe.

As a key member of Paranjpe's team, Vittal was responsible for consolidating and rejuvenating HUL's home and personal care business (HPC), which consists of marquee brands like Dove, Axe, Lux and Surf.

Shortly after he took charge of the HPC business, HUL's mainline detergent business was facing huge competition from P&G's Tide. There were significant questions around HUL's overall performance and competitiveness. Paranjpe, Vittal and the rest of the senior team were not only able to weather the storm, the home and personal care business emerged as a powerful engine of growth. (Read what CEO Paranjpe told Forbes India about the turnaround in fortunes ). In the last one and a half years, HUL's market value has climbed 60 percent since Paranjpe took over.

The three and a half year stint as executive director of Hindustan Unilever was Vittal's second stint at the company. He joined the company as a  management trainee after graduating from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta in 1992.mg_63548_nitin_280x210.jpg

In early 2000s, he had almost been lured away by Reckitt Benckiser, but eventually persuaded to stay back by the then chairman MS 'Vindi' Banga. But in 2006, Sunil Mittal picked him out as a top-level lateral hire, appointing him as director marketing and communications at Bharti Airtel's mobile telephony business.
HUL's CEO Nitin Paranjpe

When Paranjpe took over as the CEO, he was able to get Vittal to come back to HUL. It was the first time the company had taken an ex employee directly into the board possibly superceding others in the line of succession. Seen as a maverick and fiercely entrepreneurial, the no-nonsense executive was able to take quick leadership calls, back his people and raise performance standards.

mg_63546_hemant_280x210.jpgIt is unclear who will now take over at the helm of the largest division at HUL. If Paranjpe decides to pick an internal candidate, Hemant Bakshi could emerge as a logical choice. Bakshi is currently the executive director sales and customer development. He was responsible for leading HUL's initiative to treble rural direct distribution coverage. Our calls to HUL spokespersons were unanswered.
Hemant Bakshi, (Executive director, HUL)

In the last one year, this is the second senior-level exit at HUL, after Shrijeet Mishra , executive director, foods quit the company to join media giant Bennett, Colman and Co (BCCL) as COO. Mishra was succeeded by Geetu Verma who came in from Pepsico India.

UPDATE: News is just in and the company confirms, Hemant Bakshi Succeeds Gopal Vittal at HUL

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