Name change strategy for attracting Global business & Talent

Hindusthan Lever Limited is now Hindustan Unilever for the reasons aptly given in the title of this article.

Over the years, Unilever has worked on creating a uniform corporate brand across the world, very much in line with the multinational ‘One Unilever’ strategy. The last two Unilever subsidiaries to change their names were Nepal Lever, which became Unilever Nepal, and Nippon Lever, which became Unilever Japan. The parent company, which holds a little over 51% in the Indian subsidiary, has waited long and patiently for this day.

Three years ago, an internal survey at Hindusthan Lever Limited (HLL) had indicated strong resistance to dropping ‘Hindustan’ from the company’s name. In many ways, the new name is a compromise of sorts – while ‘Hindustan’ has been retained, Unilever has also managed to squeeze its way into the overall scheme of things. Going forward, this alignment with the Unilever tag is expected to assist the Indian subsidiary in attracting global talent and new business, including raw material sourcing, product outsourcing, new contracts and dealing with suppliers.

India’s longest running soap opera now has a new name. Hindustan Lever limited (HLL), the popular maker of detergent, toothpaste and what have you on the bathroom shelf, has been spun-dried into a new moniker: HUL, Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

The name change, which comes after 51 years of the Unilever subsidiary’s existence in India as HLL, had been three years in the pipeline and involved arduous deliberations with the multinational’s own employees, its consumers and other stakeholders.

HLL is a popular household name with its brands like Surf, Lux, Sunsilk, Pepsodent and Lifebuoy touching the lives of two out of every three Indians each day. Its easily identifiable logo formed from the letters ‘HLL’ shaped in the form of a green colored leaf is etched in consumers’ minds.

It would be difficult for the company to shake off the cultural baggage associated with the ‘Hindustan’ prefix and adopting an alternate name, Hindustan Unilever Ltd, instead of the widely speculated Unilever India Ltd.
The name change retains the company’s continued commitment towards its local roots while leveraging the global scale and reputation of Unilever with its consumers and stakeholders in India.
It is also learnt that three years back, in an internal and external survey, a majority had voted against the name change. That explains why the company would have decided to retain the prefix.

HLL is the single largest operating company in Unilever world in revenues (Rs 12,103 crore in 2006), and it also contributes significantly to the Asia-AMET region’s growth.

HLL was also unique in the sense that, even though it is a multinational, it has had several Indian stalwarts like Prakash Tandon, T Thomas, A S Ganguly, S M Datta, K B Dadiseth and M S Banga, as chairmen.

Going forward, this alignment with the Unilever tag is expected to assist the Indian subsidiary attract global talent and new businesses, which includes raw material sourcing, product outsourcing, new contracts, dealing with suppliers, among others.

Currently, the total amount of products sourced from HLL is around Rs 700 crore. Officials said, there is huge potential for it to grow further. The company also said that it needs to become more popular among students who seek to work with global corporations.
The board of HLL has already approved the name change, and will be put to vote by its shareholders at the annual general meeting. It will be nearly 12 months till the daunting process embossing the new name on product packaging and etch the new name in the consumer consciousness.

This would be in tandem with HLL moving into a new corporate office which will house all divisions under one roof.