December 11, 2011

HUL 'PopEye'

Some think that the retail industry has matured and there are no new opportunities, but Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) doesn’t think this way. It thinks out of the box. It thinks there are tremendous opportunities in the market. Just imagine a 55% market share in skin care for HUL. If it can retain this and work to develop and expand the market it would fetch HUL a phenomenal growth. For this, INNOVATION alone isn’t enough. There should also be RENOVATION which makes the brand look fresh all the time. Innovation doesn’t just mean launching new products; it shows the company is on a step higher than it was previously. Along with these two, HUL believes in a third aspect, ACTIVATION. The important part of it is how to take innovation and make it alive in the market where the science of marketing is at play.

Study on HUL shows some interesting facts - it has built the detergent market in India with RIN bar, it was the one which brought in the concept of washing powder with SURF. All these examples clearly prove a point - HUL’s main focus is on Brand Building. Taking forward this mission of Brand Building, HUL has launched a new technique named POPeye where in the employees of different departments can flag the products which are in shortage or out of stock in any store across any country. By this they are assuring themselves of not losing consumers to their rival brands.
Under this program the employees enter their feedback which directly lands in a portal or a call centre that has been set up for this purpose. This feedback is validated on a real time basis before alerting the sales department. The company believes that there are more than enough sales employees across the length and breadth of the country who can support the sales in the country.

Six months ago, HUL launched this program in Bengaluru and could get 230 calls from 100 different outlets. The sales department had been alerted and they converted them into action plans for the salesmen. Last month the company extended this program to Chennai and Baddi plant in Himachal Pradesh. Looking forward, the company is expecting a huge increase in the sales opportunities.

Implementing this further would bring great benefit to the company as the loopholes in the distribution system would be eliminated. At present, HUL has an on-shelf availability of 95%. POPeye would spruce up the distribution network, the company believes. Employee involvement has made it possible for HUL to directly reach two million outlets in just two years. POPeye is a broader thought of HUL’s “Mission Bushfire” which was implemented to increase the availability of its products in 16,000 kirana stores. Despite this improvement in ordering system, the store owners are proactive enough to re-order products before a condition of out of stock is reached. The customer satisfaction is expected to improve as the number of out-of-stock complaints against HUL would be drastically reduced.

The benefit of POPeye is that the feedback given by the employees is collected and it is immediately made accessible to the decision makers who analyze it. This provides a clear picture of flow of material through the entire supply chain. It is more like data mining where there is a single point access to the data which could be used by all the departments of the company avoiding confusion between the various departments like Operations, Marketing, Finance and HR. The ease of using the data and efficiency of data access has been improved.

During 2010-11, HUL added over 600,000 outlets and tripled its direct coverage in rural India, which contributed to 50% of its rural growth. POPeye can make the products reach the consumer in a better way. It helps in avoiding the missing out of consumers due to lack of availability or the visibility in a store.

Reference: Economic Times article "HUL launches 'POPeye' to enable staffs flag products shortage in any store" dated 9th November, 2011.

The writer of this article, T V Dheeraj Vishnu is a PGP student of Indian Institute of Management, Raipur. He has done his B.Tech in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Nalla Malla Reddy Engineering College, Hyderabad and can be reached at or at +91-7587208639.


  1. Nice read..Ths s what makes HUL the market leader across diff categories .. Another initiative towards customer engagement which will b a lesson for many in days to come..

  2. Great article.....
    Definitely the technique will bring revolutionary changes in retail industry... and will reduce the loss of customer due to unavailability of products on the self...

  3. nice article.... gr8 facts nd really njoyable 2 read.... :)

  4. Good 1.. Lots of take aways.. Definitely an interesting one.. :)

  5. Good one ya...keep postng like this people wil get awarenes n wil cntribte thier help in revolutnry chnges in the industris like thiss...

  6. gud the facts nd figures uve used to support every point in your write up...nic work..