In a major development Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) has initiated a pilot project, which might be the consumer products majorís first step towards doing business through the Internet. The project involves providing hand held terminals to its sales team in Delhi to stock data.
HLL - a 51% subsidiary of global major Unilever Plc. is Indiaís No. 1 FMCG company, with interests in branded personal products (soaps, cosmetics, oral-care), household care (detergents, cleansers etc.), culinary items like noodles, sauces, jams etc., tea, staple foods like flour (atta), salt and ice-creams. The companyís derives much of its competitive strength from its strong brand portfolio that includes Surf, Rin, Pondís, Lakme, Pears, Close-up, and Lux, as also from its strong distribution network (over 1.5 million retail outlets).
The pilot project is being conducted for the personal products division of HLL. The idea behind the move is to book orders online with connectivity at the stockist level from where data can be sourced.
This is a logical move for the company when Internet is expected by many experts to slowly change business logistics in the long term. Not only will it help HLL in maintaining a real time record of consumer demand, but it will also help it reduce its retailing and distribution costs (in the longer term), as has happened in the western automobile markets.
How the companyís e-commerce strategy shapes up, hinges mainly on the result of this pilot project. Also, other corporates will be keenly watching its results to give shape to their Internet plans. If the plan does turn out to be a success, it will redefine the Indian market place.
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