Speaking in a recent interview with the Economic Times of India, the industry leader pinpointed in particular what he describes as the efforts to 'de-risk the political process'.
Polman listed several specific programmes and initiatives to illustrate this, including the Swachh Bharat, Make in India, and Smart City programmes – all government initiatives which aim to increase the cohesive nature of industry in the country.
“With such a complex and diverse country and 1.2 billion or more people, change is not easy, so I have huge respect for the work being done. The seeds have been planted and the plants are starting to grow,” Polman said. “The pillars have been put in place that will result in a better India for everybody.”
Unilever owns various personal care brands, including Dove, Axe and Fair & Lovely, which are popular in the country, and its Indian division, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), enjoys a strong domestic presence.
Recently however, the company has come up against various unfavourable factors, both infrastructure- and climate-related, including the late monsoon season last year, which has seen its previously strong growth slow, especially in rural areas.
"Rural growth has come down, at a much lower level than it did in the past and now is at par with urban growth," HUL chairman Harish Manwani confirmed to the Asian Review recently, adding that the scenario will remain that way for some time.
Strategy of diversification
Hindustan Unilever is confident though that the company’s intended strategy of continuing to diversify its product offering will see it ride out this period of slow growth, which it believes is temporary.
“In an environment of moderating growth and benign input costs, we remain focused on innovation and market development to drive volumes competitively, whilst improving operating margins,” the company has stated.
Polman's recent interview suggests the firm is keen to shore up further its ongoing commitment to the Indian market.