Hindustan Unilever (HUL) chairman Nitin Paranjpe said on Thursday that the immediate future is challenging, and will require some astute handling and a balancing act to make sure that the growth does not stall and inflation is contained. Addressing shareholders’ queries at the company’s annual general meeting held through audio-visual mode, Paranjpe said even though the short term is challenging and tough, he looks forward to the future with optimism. “For the FMCG industry also, I would say that we have to navigate the short term but I remain confident of the medium to long-term future that this industry has,” he said.

Highlighting some of the key reasons for optimism, he said that the low per capita consumption in the country leaves plenty of room for growth and the large young population, a growing middle class with rising affluence, the adoption of digital mode and technology suggest strong growth rates in the FMCG sector for a period of time.However, Paranjpe said that the double-digit inflation seen in the past 14 months is “unprecedented”.

“It is truly an unprecedented moment. As a company we are determined to try and see how we can mitigate some of the impact of this to our consumers, and therefore the first action is to drive savings hard,” he said.

He told shareholders that the company is driving continuous improvements and efficiencies, and with that HUL gets about 7% savings every year, and will continue to drive hard. However, he said that the increase in prices is inevitable despite the savings agenda. “The level of inflation is such that after that it is inevitable that we will have to raise prices and they are going up, when this is required ,we do it in as calibrated a fashion as it is possible, and as thoughtful a manner which is possible, and that is what we will continue to do,” he said. He added that the company is cognisant of the price point packs and has been watchful and will follow appropriate strategy. “We sometimes reduce volumes or fill levels or sometimes increase prices. But I do not want to pretend — it is not an easy moment for our people and I feel for the common persons of this country for the hardship they face,” he said.

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