Unilever sees “huge” potential for further growth in Sri Lanka

Monday, 12 May 2014 00:21 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Global giant’s South Asia Executive VP and Hindustan Unilever MD Mehta says huge potential exist
  • SL and Unilever will continue to remain competitive
  • Unilever has clear goals in the country and want to achieve profitable, consistent, and responsible growth
  • Observes there is still lot of market development to be done
  • Notes SL has more competition which is good for consumers
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam Unilever Sri Lanka is noted to be growing well compared to its South Asian peers, but huge potential for further growth exist with product categories yet to reach maturity, according to a top official of the global giant. Unilever South Asia Executive Vice President and Hindustan Unilever Ltd. Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director Sanjiv Mehta, who was in Sri Lanka last week on a three day visit said: “The Sri Lankan market for Unilever has been growing well and ahead the other South Asian markets that it is looked at as a benchmark. The way I see it, none of our categories are matured and this means there is scope to develop the market. So from my lens there is a huge opportunity for us (Unilever Sri Lanka) to grow by upgrading the consumer and bringing in adjacent categories.” Double digit growth Noting that the South Asian market, which contributes 10% to the global business, is an important one, he shared that Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that has been showing double digit growth. Falling in the high market growth group is also India, and Nepal. Globally, on average the company has been growing at an average rate of 6% for the past five years. The global business of Unilever is worth $ 70 billion of which 57% comes from emerging markets. Not only Sri Lanka, but the business in the entire South Asia region has performed better than other regions in the first quarter of 2014 according to the visiting head. “It is very important, the South Asian markets for Unilever. The first quarter results all our businesses in the cluster have grown by double digits and despite the slowdown in the economy, the businesses have been going ahead of the market,” said Mehta who took up the role of VP for South Asia six months ago. In terms on increasing the business in the nation, Mehta noted that for Unilever gaining market share is not the sole objective, but it is also about “growing the pie”. It is with this aim that the company has been investing substantially in building new categories and expanding existing ones. Clear goals He emphasised that Unilever continues to see “huge potential” and remains committed to the country. “Our goals are clear for Sri Lanka and want to achieve the 4Gs. We want to achieve competitive growth, profitable growth, consistent growth, and responsible growth. We observe there is still lot of market development and conversion work to be done,” he expressed. In terms of potential it was highlighted that much exists in categories such as homecare, food portfolio, personal care, and within the latter, in skin care, hand and body, and deodorants. Mehta observed that as the country grows economically there is more opportunity for growth in the premium segments and this is enhanced with the growth of modern trade. However, he pointed out that the company currently faces more competition that before with the presence of other MNCs, and domestic players. Confident in Unilever continuing to be a leader in the FMCG space, in conclusion, Mehta said: “There clearly is competition from both sides and this is good for consumers. We respect and welcome competition since it keeps us on our toes and allow bringing out the best in us.” Mehta also shared that within the year Sri Lanka would see new categories but refrained from sharing details in that regard stating that initial stages of innovation plans are kept confidential.