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10 Things You Didn't Know about Laxman Narasimhan

Laxman Narasimhan

Laxman Narasimhan is the current CEO of Reckitt Benckiser Group plc. The latter is a British multinational specializing in consumer goods that came into existence through the merger of Reckitt & Colman plc and Benckiser NV.

1. Speaks Six Languages

Narasimhan was born in India. However, he is now an Indian-American. Based on this, it should come as no surprise to learn that Narasimhan is capable of speaking more than one language. However, what is particularly notable is that he can speak six languages, which is enough to make him a hyperpolyglot.

2. Studied At Savitribai Phule Pune University

Initially, Narasimhan studied at the College of Engineering at Savitribai Phule Pune University. In short, said school is named for an Indian social reformer who did a great deal to empower Indian women through education, so much so that she is sometimes considered to be the mother of Indian feminism. Nowadays, Savitribai Phule Pune University is one of the best schools that can be found in the whole of India. In any case, Narasimhan went for a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

3. Studied At University of Pennsylvania

Later, Narasimhan studied at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned not one but two master's degrees. First, he earned a MA in German and International Studies from the Lauder Institute. Second, he earned a MBA from the Wharton School.

4. Went to Work For McKinsey & Company

In total, Narasimhan spent 19 years working for McKinsey & Company. For those who are unfamiliar, McKinsey & Company is a management consulting firm headquartered in New York City in the United States. However, the firm underwent what one might call explosive expansion in the 1980s and the 1990s, with the result that it is now well-established in a wide range of places in a wide range of countries. For instance, Narasimhan had risen to be the position of location manager for the New Delhi office by the time that he left McKinsey & Company.

5. Went to Work For PepsiCo

After McKinsey & Company, Narasimhan went to work for PepsiCo, which came into existence in 1965 with the merger of the Pepsi-Cola Company and Frito-Lay, Inc. Since that time, the resulting multinational has bought out other food and beverage brands, thus bringing it to its present position as the second biggest of the food and beverage businesses that can be found in the entire world. By the time that Narasimhan left PepsiCo, he was its CCO, which stands for the Chief Commercial Officer. Generally speaking, CCOs are supposed to oversee the customer interface, the services as well as other systems by which a business interacts with its customers. As such, they tend to hold two critical roles, with one being the internal strategist for the customer interface and the other being the external spokesperson for the customer interface.

6. Has Experience in Both Developed and Developing Markets

Since Reckitt Benckiser specializes in consumer goods, it should come as no surprise to learn that Narasimhan has a lot of experience with the consumer goods sector. In particular, he has experience with the consumer goods sector in both developed and developing markets, which was stated to be something that caused him to stand out to the British multinational. This makes sense because Reckitt Benckiser sells its products in almost 200 countries, meaning that it needs someone with that kind of breadth. On top of that, developing markets are becoming more and more important, which presumably made for even more incentive.

7. Entrusted with Handling Health Division

New CEOs have to handle a wide range of issues. In Narasimhan's case, he was entrusted with handling Reckitt Benckiser's health division, which was suffering from flagging sales. For those who are curious, this happened because both the cold and the flu were weaker than normal in the United States and Europe in the winter of 2018 and 2019, which had a very noticeable effect on the British multinational's sales of related products.

8. Handed a Very Problematic Situation

Having said that, it is important to mention that the situation is much worse than it sounds based on that. Essentially, Reckitt Benckiser can be separated into a bigger health division that isn't doing very well and a smaller household products division that is doing quite well. While the weaker-than-normal cold and flu played a role in the health division's poor performance in said period, that was very far from being the first issue that it has encountered. In fact, there are a lot of investors and other stakeholders who have lost faith in Reckitt Benckiser because such issues have been happening for three years. Suffice to say that when that is the case, it becomes very clear that supposed one-time issues are no longer one-time issues, meaning that there could very well be more systematic problems at work.

9. Could Oversee a Breakup

Narasimhan's predecessor Rakesh Kapoor initiated a restructuring of Reckitt Benckiser so that its health division and its household products division would become independent entities with their own leadership. The stated intention is that the change will enable management to better-focus on reviving the health division. However, there are a lot of people who think that this is preparation for a break-up of Reckitt Benckiser in a controlled manner. Theoretically, Narasimhan and the rest of the leadership could sell the household division to generate cash that could be used in bolstering the health division by making health-related purchases as well as other means. Time will tell whether this prediction proves to be the case, particularly since the COVID-19 crisis has sent changes rippling throughout the entire business world.

10. Lives in Greenwich, CT

It is interesting to note that Narasimhan lives in Greenwich. However, this isn't the royal borough of London that can be found in the United Kingdom. Instead, this is a town that can be found in the state of Connecticut. Having said that, Greenwich, CT is considered to be one of the best places to live in the United States, which is perhaps unsurprising when one learns that it is one of the wealthiest towns in the United States as well.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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