Brand and product innovation has completely moved out of the purview of consumer goods Goliath, HLL, with all subsidiaries working as operational companies that will focus on the market or ground requirements. The recently-formed centralised regional pool, which has more than 200 HLL managers, will focus on brand development activities.
Everything from the shape of a bottle to formulation, from packaging to advertising will be handed by the regional pool and will be tweaked slightly to suit local requirements More importantly, the move has resulted in significant cost savings in advertising and R&D for HLL.
Senior HLL sources said, this move would enable uniformity in the quality of products unlike earlier, where there were disparities in the same brand or product bought from different markets. For instance, the texture or quality of products, say a Sunsilk shampoo bought in Japan would be completely different from one bought from India or China
The regional resource pool is largely staffed by managers based in India, China, Japan and Thailand. HLL and other Unilever subsidiaries will mobilise its resources to focus only on the more competitive brand-building or go-to-market operations which will determine future growth rates.
While these managers will report to the regional Unilever head, they will continue to be on the payrolls of the local company. In most markets, several subsidiaries have developed their own products with significant brand strength. For instance, India is a very strong market in beverages, while another subsidiary may be strong in another category.