A Conversation with Aseem Puri, CEO of Unilever International

In our ongoing series of interviews with distinguished leaders, we are thrilled to bring you insights from Aseem Puri, the dynamic CEO of Unilever International, Unilever’s global business unit and white space partner. Aseem sheds light on the innovative strategies employed by this rapidly expanding business unit to create value by addressing underserved markets, channels, and consumers.

Career and Leadership Journey: Aseem Puri embarked on his journey with Unilever through the graduate trainee programme, attracted by the opportunity to experiment with new ideas and lead teams. His passion for understanding consumer needs aligned seamlessly with Unilever’s vision. Little did he know that this path would lead him to develop innovations spanning from North America to Asia, allowing him the freedom to operate with the agility of a start-up.

Rewarding Aspects of the Role: Managing a vast scope that spans 200 markets, Aseem finds joy in the perpetual excitement of the Unilever International landscape. Launching new brands or products nearly every week worldwide and constantly designing innovative business models keep him engaged. Aseem’s personal purpose is to bring out the best in his team, a commitment he lives daily by inspiring, motivating, and coaching individuals. Engaging with diverse functions, business groups, and units globally provides him with continual opportunities to learn and adapt.

Leadership Style: Aseem’s leadership philosophy centers around action, emphasizing a 90% execution and 10% analysis approach. Learning from mistakes and swiftly moving forward is a key tenet of his leadership style. The power of the word ‘how’ plays a crucial role in his decision-making process, encouraging a proactive mindset when facing challenges or opportunities.

Generating Value for Unilever: Unilever International collaborates closely with business group teams to identify and fill niche, small, or challenging market segments. Over the past decade, this collaboration has contributed €1 billion in incremental turnover. Aseem highlights the specialization in incubating power brands in new markets, citing examples like Dove, Vaseline, and Ben & Jerry’s in Korea. Serving over 50 remote markets is particularly rewarding, ensuring accessibility for those who may otherwise be unable to purchase Unilever products.

Innovation as a Driving Force: Innovation holds a pivotal role in Aseem’s work, spanning across business models, products, and brands. Unilever International continually invents new business models, exemplified by the successful launch of a direct-to-consumer platform in just 100 days. Leveraging Unilever’s diverse brand portfolio and expertise, Aseem’s team collaborates with co-manufacturers to develop optimal product mixes for various markets. Noteworthy successes include the rapid global rollout of Korea-designed Vaseline Lip.

Future Ventures: Aseem expresses enthusiasm about Unilever International’s collaboration with the Singapore Economic Development Board to establish a specialist incubation center. This initiative aims to scale niche brands such as Pears, Camay, and Simple, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to fostering innovation and growth.

Aseem Puri’s leadership at Unilever International exemplifies a commitment to innovation, market inclusivity, and dynamic problem-solving. As we navigate an ever-evolving business landscape, Aseem’s insights offer a glimpse into the transformative strategies propelling Unilever International’s success in diverse markets worldwide. Stay tuned for more exclusive conversations with industry leaders driving innovation and positive change.

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