Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc. has named PepsiCo Inc.’s Laxman Narasimhan as its next chief executive officer. Narasimhan will take over on 1 September from outgoing Rakesh Kapoor CEO Kapoor. Narasimhan becomes the second Indian to take up the top job at the British healthcare giant after Kapoor. He joins RB from beverages and snacks maker PepsiCo, where he is currently global chief commercial officer responsible for the US giant's long-term growth strategy.
Narasimhan’s appointment comes outside of Reckitt’s ranks and he will enable the firm to improve its own capabilities as the consumer-goods industry wrestles with the shift to e-commerce and the sluggish performance of many mainstream brands. His immediate mandate will be restoring topline performance, especially after a few difficult years of late which included a cyberattack, a safety scandal in South Korea and sluggish performance of core brands like Nurofen and production glitches.
Before joining the soft-drink maker in 2012, Narasimhan was working with McKinsey & Co. Working in India, where he led research on the emerging-market digital consumer as well as co-lead the firm’s global consumer insights practice.
Narasimhan holds a degree in mechanical engineering from College of Engineering, University of Pune, an MA in German and International Studies from The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Finance from The Wharton School.
Reckitt is also banking on Narasimhan to deliver improved performance in the health business. The health division’s growth, which had previously outgrown the industry, has slowed down as Nurofen and other painkillers have come under siege from supermarket own-brand alternatives that can sell for a quarter of the price.
Chairman Chris Sinclair stated, “While Rakesh is leaving a very strong legacy, we hope Laxman will bring in some new dimensions and drive growth further.”
With this appointment, Laxman joins the ranks of CEOs of Indian origin who have made it as global CEOs such as Sundar Pichai of Google, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, and Ajaypal Singh Banga of Mastercard. Banga was also recently named as the named the top ethnic minority executive in the world in an annual ranking of ethnic minority role models in business in the EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Model lists, released by diversity and inclusion network INvolve.
While Chris Sinclair, when asked if the choice of picking an Indian for the top job was a deciding factor since outgoing CEO was also Indian, stated that the process was not influenced by the country of origin, however Laxman’s appointment is yet another example of Indian talent further cementing its claim to the top positions in the global business scene.
Image Credits: FT