Another Indian gets global MNC role

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Zubair Ahmed, senior vice-president, Indian sub-continent, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSKCH), has been named head of the Asia-Pacific, West Asia and Africa regions for the proposed joint venture between the company and pharmaceutical firm Novartis’ over-the-counter (OTC) business.

In April, GSK and Novartis had said they’d be bringing their consumer health care businesses in a JV, to operate under the GSKCH name and be run by the management belonging to the latter, headed by Emma Walmsley. GSK would own 63.5 per cent of the new venture, retaining full control of operations in India and Nigeria.

Ahmed, who joined GSKCH in 2007, would in his new role oversee a little over 100 countries, a significant step up from the three markets of India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh he currently handles.

“The role expansion has been announced as a part of the integration planning process for the proposed JV with Novartis,” GSKCH stated on Wednesday. Ahmed, it added, is to take over his new role following closure of the deal, expected in the first half of 2015. Ahmed, 60, joins a growing band of Indian-origin executives who are either heading international companies or taking plum assignments abroad. In the past month and a half, Ramesh Tainwala, chief of operations at Samsonite, was promoted to the position of global chief executive (CEO). Manu Anand, India head at snacks and beverage maker Mondelez, was elevated to president, regional category team, chocolates, for the Asia-Pacific (Apac) region. Hemant Bakshi, executive director, home & personal care, Hindustan Unilever, was promoted to executive vice-president (EVP) at Unilever Indonesia. And, Colgate’s India managing director (MD), Prabha Parameswaran, was elevated as president of its Africa and Eurasia division. Parallely, agricultural inputs major Monsanto elevated  Shilpa Divekar Nirula as MD & CEO of the Indian subsidiary, beside additional charge of operations at Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

In a recent interaction, Tim Cofer, who is EVP & president at Mondelez, said: “India is important not only from a business point of view but also for its human resources.There are 35-40 Indian leaders within the Apac region at Mondelez and this number is growing.”

A GSK spokesperson did not specify who would take over as the India MD of GSKCH once Ahmed took up his regional assignment. “GSK Consumer Healthcare and Novartis’ OTC businesses continue to operate in their current structures and the respective management teams remain in place until closure of the proposed transaction,” the spokesperson said.

Ahmed, a graduate from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, has worked abroad while at Gillette and Unilever, companies where he put in at least 10 years. To him goes the credit of helping the Rs 4,683-crore GSKCH make the transition from a largely beverage company, driven by Horlicks, to stepping into packaged foods and moving into areas such as oral care. And, strengthening its OTC portfolio by launching new product formats of Eno, the popular antacid.

In a conversation with Business Standard, he’d said the vision was to take the annual turnover to Rs 8,000 crore by 2016.

The British parent of the company had reposed faith in the India story by raising its stake in the consumer division to 72.46 per cent last year, from the earlier 43.2 per cent.

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