It’s going to be official today. The country's premier consumer goods company Hindustan Lever (HLL) is set to appoint Unilever's Africa chief Doug Baillie as its CEO, thereby creating history of sorts.
This will be the first time in 50 years that an expat will be taking over as the head honcho of HLL, a company that has always taken pride in being the nursery for CEOs in India for several decades.
Lever's first and last expat chairman was Stephan Turner, who was appointed in mid-1950s when HLL was first formed. There was much speculation in the media about the future boss of HLL, but ET once again came out trumps with its Power of Prior Knowledge.
In its edition dated December 5, ET was the first to report that Unilever was thinking of appointing Mr Baillie as the big boss.
It is also learnt that HLL's current MD of the home and personal care (HPC) division, Arun Adhikari, is slated to take over as the head of Nippon Lever, Unilever's subsidiary in Japan. The MD of the foods business, S Ravindranath, is due for retirement soon.
Though there is no official confirmation from HLL, the management committee of the FMCG giant is likely to be dissolved a new board constituted in the coming days.
HLL will inform the stock exchanges of the development tomorrow morning and non-executive chairman Harish Manwani is likely to address the company's top brass soon after.
Zimbabwe-born Baillie is the president of the Africa Regional Group with additional responsibility for the Middle East and Turkey. Mr Baillie is an old Unilever hand who has worked in several sales and marketing positions.
He reports to Mr Manwani - Unilever president Asia and Africa Middle East Turkey (AMET) and HLL's non-executive chairman. He has been with Unilever since 1978.
It now seems that HLL is reverting to its old unified structure of an all-powerful chief executive albeit with one minor difference.
Unlike in the past when the chief executive doubled up as the chairman, this time it appears that Mr Manwani will continue to be the non-executive chairman at least for the time being.
Sources said that Unilever chairman Patrick Cescau has played an important role in inducting Mr Baillie as the new chief executive and breaking the age-old tradition of appointing a desi CEO.
Even though Unilever has always held the view that only an Indian can best run the operations here, times have changed with the Anglo-Dutch FMCG giant increasingly moving towards a situation where the company is seen as one unified corporate entity.
It now believes that managers who have done well in one market have the ability to replicate the success in other markets. Sources add that an expat's appointment may also suggest that HLL's much-fabled stable of “listers'' is running dry.
Mr Baillie's career has spanned various sales and marketing positions. He was appointed sales director of Unilever South Africa in 1988 and subsequently became marketing director.
He moved to London in 1994 to Lever Pond's, Personal Products Co-ordination, where he became the regional liaison member for Africa, Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe and Turkey before becoming vice president of the Home and Personal Care business in the Africa Business Group.
He was appointed managing director, Lever Pond's South Africa in 1997 and national manager, Unilever South Africa, in May 2000.
In March 2004, Baillie took over as president, Africa Regional Group and in July 2004 was appointed president, AMET in addition to his current role.