"Shubharambh in Hindi means positive start, and that’s how we have landed Selling with Purpose in India."

Srinandan Sudaram

Positive start equals positive growth in India

In a nutshell

Shubharambh is an initiative that has allowed Unilever and its trade customers to come together for the benefit of the business and under-privileged school children.

What’s the issue?

Following the demonetization in October 2016, India experienced several months of slow growth. There was an increasingly negative impact on the routes to markets and a resurgence of local competition. Existing trade interventions were not fit for purpose given the task of a rapid sales rebound. Wholesale was badly affected, which caused significant concern as it contributed to 50% of Unilever’s branch business. As well as this, during a market visit, it was realized that the Government schools for rural and under-privileged children had extremely poor infrastructure, sanitation and hygiene. At HUL, a plan was developed to start the New Year with a positive and effective strategy that not only addresses our business issues, but also benefits these rural and under-privileged school children.

What’s the story?

A comprehensive business plan was developed that married the business objectives with the Lifebuoy-programme around Handwashing, guided by the principle of ‘Doing well by doing good’. Since the plan was being executed at the start of the year, it was called Shubharambh, which means a Good Start.

The plan was that for every Rupee of Secondary Sales done in week 1 of January 2017, HUL will contribute to 0.2% towards School Activities in rural areas and under-privileged children across the region. The programme would also support the state of Tamilnadu to recover from the extreme damage caused by floods and drought. This was supported by the leading skincare brand, Hamam. The employees, distributors and traders embraced the entire activity and participated whole-heartedly:

  • Distributors painted their stock units with Shubharambh and put up banners.
  • Employees and distributors donated additionally to poor children and orphanages, thereby amplify the impact of the initiative through their personal contribution to the cause.
  • Traders supported and actively participated in the activity with more outlets purchasing and purchasing more.

What are the outcomes and impact?

The idea was to run this programme not as a sales activity but to drive it ’from the heart’. People realised that by actively purchasing Unilever goods, they were truly having a positive and meaningful impact. From HUL, 5.500 employees signed up and participated in the implementation on the ground. As a result, the target was exceeded and an additional 75.000 outlets were added to the wholesale network. 10.000 households participated in the initiative, which contributed to 500 girls benefitting from improved education resources.

The programme also resulted in an additional 100.000 trees planted in the state of Tamilnadu.

The social media engagement was extremely successful with people sharing more than 25,000 pictures and sending more than 45,000 stories and messages during this week.

Most importantly, this gave a very positive momentum to the entire team and exceeded January 2017 targets and ended the month with 18% growth.

What are the future plans?

In 2018, we intend to live true ‘Shubharambh’ spirit with each region activating ‘Selling with Purpose’. The plan is to identify the key social needs specific to each region and determine how the business growth opportunities can align with this activation plan.

In Summary

“We exceeded all goals because our programme was driven “from the heart” and hugely beneficial for all parties involved, emotionally as well as monetary,” says Dheeraj Arora, General Manager/CD Central Branch at HUL.

To learn more, please contact: Mohid Sud, mohit.sud@unilever.com

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