Ref NoGB1752.HUL
TitleHindustan Unilever
DescriptionRecords of Hindustan Unilever Ltd, its predecessor, and subsidiary companies.

Please note access is only permitted to open and catalogued records subject to Unilever’s closure periods.
In line with UARM's policy on confidentiality and closure periods, certain records in this collection may be closed.

Company name: Hindustan Unilever
Former name: Hindustan Lever; Lever Brother's (India) Limited; Hindustan Vanaspati Manufacturing Company
Date founded: 1956


Before the establishment of a Unilever company in India, goods were exported to India for sale.

1888 - Sunlight soap imported into India by Lever Brothers.

1895 - Lifebuoy soap launched. Also this year, Lever Brothers appointed agents in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Karachi.

1902 - Pears Soap launched?

1905 - Lux Soap and Lux Flakes introduced.

1913 - Vim Scouring Powder introduced.

1914 - Vinolia soap launched in India.

1922 - Rinso soap powder launched.

1924 - Gibbs dental preparations launched.

1925 - Lever Brothers acquired full control over the North West Soap Company in India.


The Hindustan Vanaspati Manufacturing Company was registered by Unilever on 27 November 1931. Vanaspati production began at the Sewri factory in 1932. In May 1933 an application was made for setting up a soap factory next to the Sewri site, and in 1934 soap production began here. Also in 1934, the Garden Reach Factory in Kolkata, owned by the North West Soap Company, was rented in order to produce Lever brands - this factory was bought in 1939.

Lever Brothers India Limited (LBIL) was incorporated on 17 October 1933 to manufacture soap, with a registered office in Bombay, and manufacturing units in Bombay and Calcutta. However Lever's involvement in the manufacture of soap in India went back to 1922, when the company acquired a leading interest in the Calcutta factory.

On 11 May 1935, United Traders Private Limited was incorporated, a wholly-owned subsidiary of LBIL established to market the toilet preparations made by LBIL or imported from other Unilever companies.

After independence was won in 1947, the Indian government encouraged Unilever to promote the holding of shares by local people; by 1965, local shareholding had risen to 14%. The company also started a management training scheme from 1949, and formal management courses were inaugurated in 1953. Prakesh Tandon became the first Indian Director of the company in 1951.

In 1948, LBIL began publishing Hamara Magazine, which is still going to this day. It was initially priced at 4 annas.

In 1955, two subsidiaries of LBIL, The North West Soap Company Private Limited, and The Premier Soap Company of India Private Limited, went into voluntary liquidation.

On 8 October 1956, LBIL was merged with HVM, William Gossage & Sons (India) Private Limited and Joseph Crosfields & Sons (India) Private Limited; these were previously wholly owned subsidiaries of Unilever Limited. On 23 October, United Traders Limited's activities were taken over by LBIL. The company became a public company on 27 October 1956 and changed its name to Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) on 1 November 1956. The new company manufactured soaps, detergents, toilet preparations and glycerine, as well as Vanaspati, margarine, edible oils, and oil cake.


1957 - This year the Unilever Special Committee approved research activity by HLL.

1958 - On 1 April this year, HLL formed a subsidiary called Hindlever Trust Private Limited, to act as a trustee of the provident fund for HLL's management staff.

1959 - A research unit was developed this year, consisting of ten members of staff working in rooms in the Bombay factory.

This year HLL launched a project with a handful of farmers growing 40 acres of peas in the Uttar Pradesh district. By 1965, the project had grown and one thousand farmers were working more than 4,000 acres. When HLL entered the market of processed vegetables, it was the first attempt in India to sell dehydrated vegetables processed locally by modern methods. By 1965, peas were still the most important item, but other products were also grown, including onions, potatoes, cabbage, carrot and mustard spinach. Small farmers grew the peas under contract, and HLL field staff advised farmers on the suitability of their soils for pea production, undertook soil testing, and helped prepare seed beds. The company also undertook the transport of the crop to the factory. More scientific farming methods were introduced, and the famers were given financial security as it was guaranteed that HLL would buy all the crops at a fixed price.

Surf was also launched in India in1959.

Van den Berghs (India) Private Limited, an inactive wholly owned subsidiary, was voluntarily liquidated this year.

1960 - This year, experimental milk collection centres were established in three villages far away from each other; milk was bought from the farmers, and taken to Etah to be processed for the manufacture of ghee at a pilot plant. The Etah Dairy was then built from 1962, and regular production of skimmed milk powder and Anik ghee began in October 1964. By 1966, the Etah Dairy's milk collections centres had gone from 3 to 47.

1961 - Prakesh Tandon became the first Indian Chairman of HLL; he had been part of HVM since 1937. At this time, most of the managers came from India.

This year Lux Toilet Soap Colour range was launched nationally.

1962 - Exports operation began.

1963 - Head Office building at Backbay Reclamation in Bombay opened as Hindustan Lever House.

This year Indexport Limited was established by HLL, a wholly owned subsidiary which dealt in the international export of HLL products- it began business at the beginning of 1964.

Pepsodent toothpaste was launched nationally this year.

1964 - This year, the Etah Dairy was established, and Anik Ghee and Sunsilk Shampoo were launched.

1965 - Signal toothpaste was launched.

1967 - The Hindustan Lever Research Centre (HLRC) was officially opened in Andheri, Bombay on 9 December 1967 by the Deputy Prime Minister of India. It was the first Unilever laboratory outside Europe and North America, and was tasked with developing a technology tailored to Indian needs. By 1968, the research unit had 130 staff and its own modern fully equipped HQ costing £900,000.

In the 1960s, the HLRC worked on the chemistry of unconventional minor oils and this led to their commercial use for soap manufacture. In the 1970s, the fairness cream Fair & Lovely was launched after biochemical studies on skin pigmentation. In the 1980s, successes include structurant technology for soap and non-tower detergent concentrates. In the 1990s, an antibacterial Liquid Lifebuoy and a natural UVA sunscreen were developed.

1968 - A Fine Chemicals Unit was commissioned at Andheri. Informal price control on soap began.

1969 - Rin bar and Bru coffee were launched. The Fine Chemicals Unit started production.

1971 - Clinic Shampoo launched.

Unilever acquired the Lipton business, and with it Lipton India Ltd.

1974 - Pilot plant for industrial chemicals at Taloja opened.

Liril soap and talcum powder were launched this year.

FERA legislation was passed this year which stated that companies not engaged in core industries had to reduce their shareholding to 40%. Negotiations with the government led to the decision that a foreign company could hold 51%, as long as 60% of its turnovers was in the core or high-technology sectors and that 10% of its products was exported. By the early 1980s, HLL was the country's second largest private sector exporter. A new government ordered Unilever in 1977 to reduce its shareholding to 40%, but Unilever was allowed to retain its majority as a result of a decision by a new government in 1981.

1975 - Jammu project works began, statutory price controls on Vanaspati and baby foods was withdrawn, and Close Up toothpaste was launched.

Lux powder launched in Delhi and Calcutta.

Fair & Lovely Fairness Cream entered the test market in mid-March this year.

1976 - Asha Daan was opened, a home founded by Mother Teresa's organisation The Missionaries of Charity. It was a home for abandoned handicapped children, destitute people, and those suffering with HIV, built on land provided by HLL in Mumbai. The Chairman of the company at the time, Thomas Thomas, said it was `an act of thanksgiving and sharing the organisation's prosperity with the most disadvantaged among us.' HLL had already been supporting Mother Teresa's charity by supplying Lifebuoy and Surf at reduced prices. The premises that HLL gave Mother Teresa to build the home was a former warehouse, which needed converting to create the home. The HLL Mumbai factory team helped and in six months it was converted.
In 1976, construction work of Haldia chemicals complex began and the Taloja chemicals unit began functioning.

The Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRD) was established in September this year; with the Etah Dairy as its focal point, the long term aim was the improvement in the rural economy. It began by giving assistance to farmers in Etah in their agricultural programmes, and the scheme's success here meant it was then extended to several villages.

Part of the impetus for the establishment of the IRD programme was the poor performance of the Etah Dairy. The Dairy had been trouble since 1973, partly due to poor milk availability, and a sale was considered. It was decided, however, that something must be done about improving this availability by giving farmers guidance and motivation to produce better animals that would be more productive. By the mid-1980s the programme encompassed various activities, including the following: children were vaccinated; animals were treated, village wells were disinfected and repaired; a research and development base was established to solve problems related to farming, land use, etc called the Krishi Pashu Vigyan Kendra; two Village Level Agricultural Super Markets were set up to sell fertilisers, animals feeds, and HYV seeds to farmers; IRD helped farmers to obtain bank loans to buy buffalos; and sewing classes were offered to women to make garments.

Dr A. S. Ganguly, later to become Chairman of HLL, was transferred to Bombay Factory as General Factory Manager this year. He had previously been at the Garden Reach Factory.

1977 - Jammu Synthetic Detergents plant inaugurated, Indian shareholding increased to 18.57%.

The Hindustan Lever Research Foundation was inaugurated on 9 December this year by the Union Minister for Industries, George Fernandes, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the R&D Centre at Andheri. It was an independent body which financed research by external research laboratories and universities in areas such as agriculture, animal husbandry, and industrial chemicals. It began operations in 1978.

1978 - Indian shareholding increased to 34%, and Fair & Lovely skin cream launched.
During 1978, the IRD programme was extended to cover 19 villages, with the aim of making improvements in agriculture, animal husbandry, public health and hygiene, drainage, irrigation, land reclamation, etc. Advice and support was offered by the company's agricultural supervisors, and village level health workers were also trained. Two mobile medical vans gave medical assistance on a regular basis in the villages.

1979 - An Industrial Phosphate Project at Haldia was commissioned, and the plant was inaugurated on 13 October 1979.

1980 - Unilever shareholding in the company came down to 51%.

1984 - HLL's foods and animal feeds businesses were transferred to Lipton, which was 40% owned by Unilever at the time. This was due to tight government laws regarding mergers and acquisitions in the country.

From 1984, the management of the Etah Dairy was in the hands of Lipton India, and the IRD programme was run jointly by Lipton and HLL.

In 1984, Unilever acquired the Brooke Bond business, including Brooke Bond India - this would later become part of Hindustan Lever.

1985 - Brooke Bond acquired Kothari General Foods.

Hindustan Lever's Gulita training centre in Bombay was rebuilt this year, having been initially established in 1956. It was modelled on the UK's Four Acres and provided a regional focus for India and the region. For about a quarter of the year, the centre was used for regional courses attended by participants from a dozen countries from all three of the Overseas Regional Managements.

1986 - The Agri Products unit at Hyderabad started functioning.

1987 - Wheel was launched this year.

This year Unilever acquired the Chesebrough-Pond's business, and with it Pond's (India) Ltd - this would later become part of Hindustan Lever.

Sunsilk was relaunched this year, with a conditioner.

1988 - Lipton Taaza Tea was launched.

1989 - At this time Unilever had a 40% share in the Brooke Bond and Lipton
businesses, and a 51% share in Hindustan Lever.

Close-up Blue Gel Toothpaste, and International Lux, were introduced this year.

1991 - Surf Ultra detergent was launched this year.

1992 - In May this year the liberalisation of the 1974 Foreign Exchange Regulations Act began. It meant that, for the first time, Unilever could own a majority of its businesses in India. Unilever's stake in Lipton consequently increased from 40% to 51%.

The sales force of Pond's and HLL personal products merged this year.

1993 - In January 1993 Doom Dooma India Ltd and Tea Estates India Ltd were amalgamated with Brooke Bond India, followed by Kissan Products Ltd and Lipton India Ltd later in the year.

Unilever won the RTZ Award for Long Term Commitment at the Worldaware World Development Awards for Business for its work in the Etah District of Uttar Pradesh and its IRD programme.

On 9 March this year, the proposal for the merger between HLL and the Tata Oil Mills Companies Ltd (TOMCO) was made public - the legal merger of these two companies took 20 months. TOMCO operated out of seven principal manufacturing locations and marketed soap and detergents.

In 1993, Brooke Bond India acquired Dollops Ice Cream from Cadbury India.

A sister research centre to the HLRC was established at Whitefield, Bangalore, to conduct research into tea, frozen desserts, and meals. In the same year, Clinic concentrated gel was developed at Andheri.

1994 - HLL developed a computer system to map out where its customers were. The system had been developed over the previous three years, and allowed the sales management team to see on a map where retail customers were situated. The map also showed where road and tracks were, so the sales team were able to devise the best means of supplying and servicing its retail outlets. This system was useful considering the increase in demand in rural markets.

Also in 1994, Unilever and Kimberly-Clark Corporation joined together in a joint venture company to manufacture and market disposable nappies and feminine care products in India. Unilever participated through HLL. The new company was called Kimberly-Clark Lever Limited and was jointly managed by executives from the two companies.

HLL formed Unilever Nepal Limited.

In summer 1994, Blue Wheel was added to the original Green Wheel.

A new laboratory building was opened in November of this year by Research and Engineering Director, Dr Ashok Ganguly. The Foods Research and Development Laboratory was an extension of the research centre at Whitefield, Bangalore which had been established in 1993.

When Lifebuoy was relaunched in 1994 in India, a logo of a victory cup appeared on the pack, to reinforce the brand's association with sport. The brand sponsored football tournaments like the Indian Football Association Shield and also national hockey tournaments.

Brooke Bond India changed its name to Brooke Bond Lipton India, after the merger of Lipton India into Brooke Bond the previous year.

Also, Wall's frozen desserts were launched. The name changed to Kwality Wall's after a strategic alliance with the families running Kwality ice cream business.

1995 - HLL took part in the Energy Conservation and the Environment 1995 exhibition in New Delhi, which outlined the company's awareness of environmental issues. HLL's stall was put together in partnership with Unilever Research Lab, Port Sunlight, and the event was part of the 11th India Engineering Trade Fair. The exhibition included reference to the company's use of structurant technology in soap manufacture, which reduced oil usage; the introduction of concentrated detergents which reduced the use of non-biodegradable chemicals; and the use of agricultural residues and alternative packaging material which saved forest wood and reduced packaging waste.

This year, at the Unilever Advertising Awards, HLL won the Bronze Award for its adverts for Le Sancy soap. The advert, by agency Ogilvy and Mather, showed a boy singing as he washed himself in the shower.

HLL entered the business of branded staples, and Kissan Annapurna salt was launched.

1996 - As part of a reshuffle, HLL transferred bulk chemicals and fertilisers into Hind Lever Chemicals, a subsidiary formerly known as Stepan Chemicals. At the same time, Stepan's detergents business, including Wheel, was transferred to HLL. The reshuffle was in line with Unilever's decision to focus worldwide on foods, detergents, personal products, and speciality chemicals. The plan was to reduce HLL's 60% holding in Hind Lever Chemicals over time, retaining a 26% minority stake to ensure uninterrupted supplies of sodium tripolyphosphate, a crucial ingredient of detergents.

Joint Venture company Lakme Lever Ltd was formed in partnership between Lakme and Hindustan Lever. Lakme had a strong presence in cosmetics and skin care, whilst HLL was strong in complementary categories such as hair and dental care.

In 1996, HLL and Brooke Bond Lipton merged, making the company the largest private sector company in India.

Surf Excel launched.

In 1996, HLL won three national awards for export achievement. In September, they received the Trophy for Outstanding Export Performance for 1994/5 from the Indian Government. A few days later they won the Basic Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics Export Promotion Council's award for being India's biggest exporter of soaps, cosmetics and castor oil in 1994/5. They also won the Solvent Extractors' Association of India Award for being the largest exporter of rice bran extractions in 1995/6.

In October 1996, HLL became the first major Indian company with its own corporate website.

1997 - Unilever set up an international research lab in Bangalore. Also in 1997, HLL received the Indian government's award for Research and Development in the Chemicals and Allied sectors for work on biopolymers which formed an environmental friendly technology.

1998 - Pond's India Ltd merged with HLL.

HLL's Chhindwara factory was named Unilever's safest site in the 1997 Unilever Occupational Safety Awards Scheme.

HLL acquired the Lakme brand this year, along with the factories and Lakme Ltd's 50% equity in Lakme Lever Ltd.

2000 - HLL acquired 74% in Modern Foods (India) Limited, giving HLL a presence in the bread market.

2001 - HLL embarked on the Power Brands strategy, whereby 35 power brands chosen from a total of 100 were to be pushed for higher growth. Project Shakti was also launched this year as a pilot in Andrha Pradesh with the goals of improving hygiene, fighting disease and generating rural incomes for small communities [see Lifebuoy historical information sheet for more information on this project].

2002 - Launch of Ayush.

Modern Foods (India) Limited became a wholly owned subsidiary of HLL.

HLL reconstructed a village in Kutch district of Gujarat called Yashodadham a year after homes were wrecked by an earthquake.

2003 - Launch of the Hindustan Lever Network.

HLL's Edible Oils and Fats businesses was sold to Bunge Limited.

2005 - Launch of Pureit water purifier.

In 2005, five subsidiary companies were merged with HLL - Lever India Exports Limited, Lipton India Exports Limited, Merryweather Food Products Limited, TOC Disinfectants Limited, and International Fisheries Ltd.

2006 - This year a new management committee was formed, to replace the national management. Douglas Baillie was appointed as the new CEO and MD.

In 2006 Hindustan Lever's entire shareholding in Tea Estates India was transferred to Maxwell Golden Tea Private Limited, and its 100% shareholding in Doom Dooma Tea Company Ltd was transferred to McLeod Russel India Limited.


In 2007, Hindustan Lever became Hindustan Unilever. It was approved by shareholders at the AGM on 18 May and the new identity was formally announced on 25 June. The new name meant the heritage of the company was maintained, and also the company was more globally aligned with the corporate name of Unilever. A new logo, with 25 icons, was created to tie in with the company's mission to add vitality to life.

2008 - Nitin Paranjpe succeeded Douglas Baillie as CEO and MD.

2010 - HUL moved into new 780,000 sq ft. headquarters in Andheri, Bombay.

HUL launched Sure this year.

1944-1947: W. G. Shaw
1947-1953: C. S. Petit
1953-1957: A. J. Hoskyns-Abrahall
1957-1961: S. H. Turner
1961-68: P. L. Tandon
1968-1973: V. G. Rajadhyaksha
1973-1980: T. Thomas
1980-1990: Dr Ashok Ganguly
1990-1996: Susim Datta
1996-2000: Keki Dadiseth
2000-2005: M. S. Banga
2005- present: Harish Manwani.

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