Prabha Narasimhan, MD and CEO, Colgate-Palmolive India

After 12 long years, another outsider is set to steer the fortunes of Colgate-Palmolive India. This time, the new MD and CEO of the Mumbai-based fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company is Prabha Narasimhan. Ms Narasimhan, who is currently the executive director of Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL) Home Care division, will be assuming her new role at Colgate-Palmolive India on September 1. In 2010, the FMCG company had hired Mukul Deoras – also from HUL – to become the MD of Colgate-Palmolive India.

In fact, Ms Narasimhan’s elevation to the top post of Colgate-Palmolive India has been necessitated by Ram Raghavan, the former MD and CEO of the company, moving to the parent company, Colgate Palmolive Company, based out of New York. Analysts tracking the FMCG industry point out that Colgate-Palmolive’s move to hire the topmost executive from outside signals renewed efforts by the over Rs 4,800-crore company to regain market share from competitors, such as Dabur and Patanjali.

And Colgate-Palmolive has perhaps rightly zeroed in on Ms Narasimhan, an FMCG veteran with a career spanning over two decades, to take on its rivals. The 48-year-old senior executive has had stints in diverse consumer product categories and across multiple geographies and appears to be right fit for Colgate-Palmolive’s aggressive market push.

An Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore alumna, Ms Narasimhan was briefly associated with Madura Garments as general manager before moving in to HUL as a regional marketing manager in 2006. She rose through the ranks in the country’s largest FMCG company, from a regional brand director for Lipton and Brooke Bond to heading the company’s skincare and later homecare businesses.

A major highlight of Ms Narasimhan’s stint at HUL was a spectacular, market-beating growth rate achieved by the company’s skincare business. This was enabled by a broad-based performance delivery across all brands and sub-segments and entry into newer skincare segments. A similar feat was repeated at HUL’s homecare business too when Ms Narasmhan moved to head the division in early 2020.

Ms Narasimhan has also been spearheading sustainability initiatives for HUL. Her strategies have been facilitating HUL to reformulate its oral-care – toothbrushes, toothpastes and mouth sprays – and personal-care – body washes and hand sanitisers – products with plant-based, green carbon ingredients as alternatives to fossil fuels.

In fact, HUL’s launch of India’s first recyclable toothpaste tube last year bore all the fingerprints of Ms Narasimhan’s sustainable, green initiatives. She has contributed immensely in embedding the agenda of a clean-and-green future into the company’s skincare and homecare product development strategies.

As Ms Narasimhan takes over her big, new role at Colgate-Palmolive India, these sustainability strategies are likely to come in handy for the company in its market share battle with its rivals, especially Dabur and Patanjali. The two companies have been leading the market in the natural products segment – the current epicentre of competition in the Indian FMCG market that is also driving big profits.

Besides, the new Colgate-Palmolive chief will also be saddled with tasks to accelerate growth of revenue and improve profit margins. The veteran in Ms Narasimhan could perhaps already be chalking out strategies to squeeze the best results out her new company.

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