New Delhi : Nestle SA boss Paul Buckle has called Shivani Hegde back from Sri Lanka to help stem the damage suffered by Brand Maggi.
Shivani Hegde took Maggi through brand extensions into new categories and variants, shifted the advertising angle from taste to health and widened distribution. This made Maggi available across the country, even its remote corners, leading to a 70 per cent-plus share of the noodle market.
The economics graduate and master’s degree holder from the Faculty of Management Studies in the capital has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the Indian market because of her association with the brand for such a long time. The Nestle India leadership, which is relatively new, will depend heavily on this to get to grips with damage control.
Hegde, who took over as head of Nestle in the island nation four months ago and is a member of the parent company’s global marketing leadership council, has pitched camp in India to help with the rescue mission. The country’s longest-serving custodian for any brand and a Nestle veteran of three decades.
At a press conference in Delhi on Friday, the first public interaction of any kind by the company since the crisis broke, Shivani Hegde didn’t say anything beyond helping out by reading a question. Still, it was a reflection of her stature that she was sitting alongside global CEO Bulcke, Nestle India CEO Etienne Benet and Sanjay Khajuria, senior vice-president for corporate affairs in the local unit.
Her tasks are expected to include meeting government officials and regulators along with the parent company’s executives. More importantly, she will be looking to overhaul consumer engagement in print, television and social media.
Now in her early 50s, Hegde joined Nestle as management trainee and over the years has been through various departments, including sales and human resources. She was elevated as managing director of Nestle’s Sri Lanka business in January.
Shivani Hegde is precise about what she wants, said Emmanuel Upputuru, national creative director at ad agency Publicis in 2007-12. He worked with the Maggi team along with Hegde and helped create the ‘Mein aur meri Maggi’ campaign. She would communicate exactly what she wanted in very few words, he said. “She’s very correct, treated Maggi as her baby and the entire system looked up to her,” said Upputuru, who currently runs startup agency ITSA.
“She made Maggi a household name and brought in a bottom-of-the pyramid connect to the brand without alienating upmarket consumers —that’s been her X factor,” said a top executive of a food company who knows her closely but declined to be identified.