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2014: Slow Business for FMCG, Executive Moves Aplenty

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New Delhi: They are called FMCG or 'fast moving consumer goods' companies, but it has turned out to be a year of slow business for the sector, even as movements were quite visible in 2014 among those at the helm of affairs.

For the direct-selling segment of the FMCG space, it was almost a stand-still as head of market leader Amway India got arrested, resulting in louder demands for putting in place a clear-cut regulatory framework for this business to weed out illegal multi-level marketing schemes from genuine operators.

The year also saw change of guard taking place at various major FMCG companies including HUL, Marico and Britannia.

Prominent among them, Varun Berry took over as managing director of bakery and dairy products maker Britannia, from the company's long-serving chief Vinita Bali upon her retirement.

On business front, FMCG firms continued to struggle with subdued demand as the economy is to get back on tracks.

Most companies, including Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), Marico, Dabur, ITC and Emami reported increase in sales during the year but complained of headwinds that impacted growth.

High inflation led to drop in consumer spending, especially discretionary spending.

"There is a lag of 2-3 quarters between economic indicators such as GDP and inflation numbers improving and sale of FMCG products. We remain positive about our medium to long-term growth outlook," HUL chief financial officer P B Balaji had said in October.

While announcing results for the second quarter, Dabur India CEO Sunil Duggal also said that growth rates in most consumer products segments have witnessed a sharp fall due to low growth and challenging environment.

Even as they faced the challenges, there were also a few management level changes in the FMCG companies this year.

Marico elevated Saugata Gupta as the managing director of the company from April 1. Mr Gupta, who joined Marico in January 2004 as marketing head, was elevated to become the CEO of the company's India business in 2007.

Harsh Mariwala, who was earlier chairman and managing director, will continue as the chairman of the company.

"This announcement reflects the next phase of Marico's growth journey. Under Gupta's leadership, Marico has had a track record of sustainable profitable growth... I am confident that we will achieve new heights under the leadership of Saugata and his team," Mr Mariwala said on Mr Gupta's elevation.

This year also saw resignation of Marico Group CFO Milind Sarwate. Sarwate was with Marico for the last 16 years and had joined the company in 1998 as the CFO. He was instrumental in driving Marico's inorganic growth agenda through acquisitions and alliances, in India and overseas.

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