Indian innovations relevant in Europe now, says Unilever CEO Paul Polman

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BENGALURU: Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods corporations, said innovations that have marked its growth in India, are now more relevant than ever, in recession hit parts of the world such as Europe.

“Learnings” from India such as lower price points for products in smaller packages or sachets, is gaining acceptance in the European market, where poverty has returned as the local economies continue to reel under recession, the UnileverBSE 0.51 % CEO said.

“In UK, we sell some of our best brands at a price point of one pound,” Paulman said. “People still want the best brands and now we can make it accessible to them.”

Paulman, who was in Bangalore on Thursday to open Unilever’s global technology center, also highlighted the success of the affordable water purifying product, Pureit. The product entirely developed in India, is now being sold by Unilever in at least 15 other countries, where according to him, it has become a popular brand.

Polman, who took over the reigns of the Anglo-Dutch corporation in 2009, said that developing markets including India will contribute at least 75% of revenues by 2020. Currently, these geographies that include India and China make up about 55% of its global revenues of about e 46 billion.

Last month, Unilever had reported its third quarter revenues e 13.4 billion, aided by strong sales from emerging markets including India.

In India, Unilever operates as Hindustan Unilever LtdBSE 0.51 %, country’s largest FMCG company, listed on BSE and having revenues of around Rs 21,000 crore.

Polman, who is known for pushing sustainable business practices within Unilever, said that it is possible to grow responsibly by giving back to the society rather than just taking from it.

“You can be successful, grow both top and bottomline and still be very responsible to your consumers,” Polman said. “The more we can do that, others will follow.”

Polman was in India to formally launch Unilever’s global technology centre. The centre is being tasked with providing IT services and also helping Unilever to find new ways of using technology to improve its business.

The 220,000 sq ft centre, the largest such facility for the company globally, currently houses 1,400 people but the headcount expected to go up as more global support functions are done out of here. Some of Unilever’s existing IT services vendors such as InfosysBSE -0.66 % and Accenture will continue to support the company and will have their staff based at the new centre.

Unilever recently shut four of its plants and cut close to 800 jobs in the UK.