When Prabha Narasimhan joined Colgate-Palmolive India as its chief executive from Hindustan Unilever last month, she became the FMCG giant’s first external CEO hire in India for 12 years. The previous external hire, like Prabha, also hailed from Unilever.
Prabha takes the reins from Ram Raghavan who has been promoted to President (enterprise oral care) for Colgate-Palmolive Company and is relocating to the firm’s New York headquarters.
Successful track record of strong performance across categories
Prabha was an obvious choice for the maker of Colgate toothpaste and Palmolive hand wash given her nearly 25 years of experience across consumer marketing, customer development and marketing roles and her 16 years with Unilever.
An alum of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Prabha joined Unilever in 2006 as a regional marketing manager and has risen steadily through the ranks, working in leadership roles across multiple geographies and across multiple categories, including beauty, personal care, refreshments, and home care.
According to Mukul Deoras, President, APAC Division, she has a “successful track record of strong performance across categories.”
As head of Hindustan Unilever’s Skincare business, Prabha is credited with delivering a “spectacular market-beating growth rate” enabled by a “broad-based performance delivery across all brands and sub-segments,” according to HUL. During the more than four years of her tenure in this role, she delivered double-digit growth in the Colours business.
In her most recent role as Executive Director of Home Care for Hindustan Unilever and VP Homecare for Unilever South Asia, Prabha was responsible for the homecare business spanning India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
In this role, she “contributed immensely towards embedding the clean future agenda into the home care product development,” HUL CEO and MD Sanjiv Mehta said.
Sustainability leading Colgate-Palmolive into the future
Her sustainability credentials will be invaluable at Colgate-Palmolive India as the firm focuses on bringing sustainable innovation to oral care.
The company, which is the market leader in oral care in India, recently outlined its ESG achievements and targets in a report, including the launch last year of the first recyclable toothpaste tubes in Asia, the first-ever recycled toothbrush.
Colgate became the first company in India to receive TRUE Zero Waste Platinum certification (GBCI) in 2019 for all its four manufacturing sites; and from FY 2021-22 empowered more than 10,000 women from underserved communities in India with digital and financial literacy.
Prior to joining Colgate as CEO, Prabha travelled to each of the six countries and seven offices in which Colgate-Palmolive operates “to meet and understand this business and its people,” she said, adding that she was “excited and eager to work with the Colgate Palmolive team in India on brands that I have grown up with and a business that is an absolute powerhouse.”