The CEO Factory by Sudhir Sitapati

Management Lessons from Hindustan Unilever

Today’s #DhandheKaFunda: "Innovation thrives in a culture of integrity, meritocracy, and a deep understanding of the consumer's world works."

The CEO Factory by Sudhir Sitapati was on my reading list for a little over six months.

Finally, I read it when I took the last couple of weeks off in 2023.

Hindustan Unilever is a university for entrepreneurship. The author narrated it well through an inside look at strategy and principles.

It analyzed what makes HUL a breeding ground for some of the most effective business leaders and CEOs.

Major Learnings:

  1. HUL's Remarkable Journey: With a market cap of over $60 Billion (2019) and a consistent CAGR of 15% over 60 years, HUL's story is a testament to sustainable success, far from the fleeting allure of quick-growth companies.

  2. Beyond Media's Darling Startups: The book contrasts HUL's steady growth with the volatile bursts of startups like WeWork, emphasizing long-term value over short-term hype.

  3. The CEO Factory Indeed: HUL's notable contribution of 500+ CEOs globally to various major companies speaks volumes of its leadership cultivation.

  4. The Middle-Class Management Ethos: HUL's culture, mirroring its middle-class consumer base – hard-working, frugal, aspiring, and humble – is presented as a cornerstone of its success.

  5. Comprehensive Lessons: The book divides its insights into eight parts, encompassing broad aspects of HUL's success formula, from marketing and product development to HR and company values.

The “Huh” moment

Almost every major company in India has an HUL man or woman at the top.

Among them are Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel; Ignatius Navil Noronha, CEO and MD of DMart; Sanjay-Gupta, country manager of Google India; Raymond Lifestyle CEO Sanjay Behl; Anand Kripalu, MD and CEO of Diageo India; Suresh Narayanan, Nestle India CMD, and many others.

Isn’t it radical?

5 Broad Ingredients of HUL success:

  1. Middle-Class Soul: HUL's success mirrors its middle-class consumers - hardworking, frugal, aspiring, and humble.

  2. Meritocratic Culture: Promotions are based on performance track records.

  3. Broad Exposure: Managers experience diverse socio-economic environments, from remote villages to global investors.

  4. Entrepreneurial Mindset: Cultivating ownership and results-focused approaches, preparing leaders for problem-solving and quick decision-making.

  5. Unbending Integrity: Prioritizes ethical practices and honesty, viewing it as essential for long-term success in India.


The CEO Factory is a testament to how visionary leadership and robust management practices can lead to sustained business success.

The CEO Factory is a radical read, and we can learn a thing or two from it, can’t we?

Have a wonderful weekend, all.

Until the next,

Br, UV (founder of Upsquare. Upsquare’s culture breeds radical rainmakers.✌🏻)

P.S. Read more of UV’s #DhandheKaFunda on LinkedIn.