The new occupant of the corner office at Hindustan Unilever is likely to take forward the acquisition strategy that retiring CEO Sanjiv Mehta reinstated in his tenure, use GlaxoSmithKline Consumer’s portfolio as a growth driver, while making further investments in digital initiatives in order to keep ahead of the existing competition, as well as compete with new entrants.

Under Sanjiv Mehta, who is retiring from the company that he helmed for a decade, HUL grew 10 per cent annually despite its size, crossed the Rs 50,000-crore turnover mark, market capitalisation of its stock more than quadrupled to $75 billion, while it managed to stave off competition by maintaining and gaining market share across key portfolios.

Rohit Jawa, who will take over as the MD and CEO in June, is likely to build on what Mehta has set in place and take up where he left off, according to analysts. He is an old hand at the Unilever group, having worked across India, South-East Asia, North Asia and is currently Chief of Transformation at the Anglo-Dutch behemoth in London.

Rohit takes over the reins of India’s largest fast moving consumer goods company at a time when Mukesh Ambani is making a determined onslaught on the FMCG sector through acquisitions, both niche and high profile, and pushing its own brands in stores that are owned and run by Reliance Retail.

Rohit showcased his ability to lead transformation during his stint as Chairman of Unilever China, making it competitive and profitable, and among the top three markets for Unilever. Prior to China, he was instrumental in improving profitability  of Unilever Philippines, driving volume growth and boosting return on invested capital.

Analysts said he will be bringing his transformational capabilities to his role in India. Brokerage firm Jefferies said Rohit’s China experience of digital commerce would help HUL going forward.

In a note Nuvama Institutional Equities said, “Rohit’s ability to integrate the strength of traditional markets with digital technologies and future-fit business models, positions him well to take HUL into its next growth phase.”

He is expected to bolster acquisitions in the direct-to-consumer space and build up the ‘naturals’ portfolio as a larger play in the company.

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