How to get 2.7mln ‘Mom & Pop’ stores to adopt a new distributive trade platform – Interview with Prashaant Huria of Unilever


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Today’s interview is with Prashaant Huria, who is the Chief Technology Officer for Unilever’s Digital Distributive Trade business. Prashaant and I connected after he spoke at Adobe’s Global Summit in Las Vegas back in late March. We talked about how they got 2.7mln ‘Mom & Pop’ stores to adopt a new distributive trade platform that Prashaant and his team at Unilever have developed, what it can do and what impact it has had on the retailers as well as what sort of changes Unilever has had to go through to bring this to life and make it a success.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Lessons learnt from testing Copilot for service across tens of thousands of service engineers – Interview with Jeff Comstock of Microsoft – and is number 506 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders who are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here are the highlights of my chat with Prashaant:

  • What we’re doing here in distributive trade is really about building an EB2B platform business where we are digitizing the entire value chain of our distributive trade business.
  • Unilever launched this as a major modernization project with Adobe Commerce to broaden our reach with small and medium-sized organizations and expand its distributed trade business.
  • The initial rollout of the project led to a over 20 % rise in gross sales and a near 20 % jump in average order value.
  • When we talk about distributive trade we are talking about local grocery stores, convenience stores, the mom and pop stores, like the corner shop stores.
  • We are focusing right now on markets across Southeast Asia, reaching into the Middle East and Africa as well as Latin America.
  • We’ve been able to get 2.7 million of these business onto our new platform.
  • There are millions of these in outlets across rural and urban areas. And they are the backbone of their communities and families providing daily necessities to those living in the proximity while providing an additional income stream.
  • The platform provides a range of services…. fulfillment, order capture, advisory and so on.
  • But also there’s a big element of efficiency and convenience, particularly for the retailers as they can now engage in digital trade from anywhere and anytime.
  • The platform provides the retailers visibility into the availability of Unilever products and uses real-time data analytics to personalize recommendations and promotions and provide end to end visibility for their purchase and delivery status.
  • Isn’t this Amazon for B2B? Yes and. And it has not been done in the distributive trade business at this scale or sophistication.
  • The platform is currently in seven markets around Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Turkey, plus a couple of Latin American markets. This is the first wave of roll-out.
  • Each version is available in the local language and takes account of local fiscal regulatory requirements.
  • Unilever has 8,000 distributors and over 50,000 sales reps globally. Today, in simple terms, the role of our sales rep is focused on routine order taking and stock replenishment for the retailer.
  • But with the platform and its data and analytics capability, the goal is to evolve their role to be more like category advisors. Helping to recommend the best and most relevant products for the different retailers based on their size, category, location, other parameters and aspects. And through this converged experience between the retailer and the sales reps, the sales reps now have the visibility of retailer’s cart and they can communicate the right applicable offers directly to the retailer thereby building more trust and driving greater adoption of the platform.
  • In order to manage change and drive adoption, one of the key learnings, for example, was that you’ve got to pick your best distributor in the beginning, not the worst one. You also have to pick multiple distributors, one in an urban area and one in a rural area.
  • We’ve organized ourselves as a product-led organization to be able to quickly respond to changes and challenges and two stay customer-focused.
  • Distributive trade is critical to Unilever. We have a strong foothold and it contributes more than 13 billion euros in sales, primarily in emerging markets and developing markets.
  • The global EB2B market is projected to grow between 15 % to 16 % per annum between 2021 and 2028, depending on which survey you look at from Accenture to McKinsey to others.
  • The impact for me of an initiative like this is on different levels. It shows that you can have a win-win situation. You can do what matters to Unilever, but you can also do something in which it really matters and has a significant positive impact on the retailers as well. That’s kind of great.
  • Prashaant’s best advice:
    • Train your team to listen like ninjas and care like champions. Happy employees create happy customers. It’s that simple.
    • Numbers don’t lie, but also, go and talk to customers. Strategy is not what happens on a piece of paper. It’s actually what’s on the ground, what’s happening.
  • Prashaant’s Punk CX brand: Zappos, The Lego Group.

About Prashaant

PH Head shot 02 copyPrashaant Huria is a technology leader with over 23 years of global experience in driving large-scale business change. He has a proven track record of building and scaling enterprise platforms from ideation to mass adoption. His expertise spans across various industries including pharmaceutical, consumer goods, consulting, software start-ups, and enterprise software. Prashaant has lived and worked across Europe and Asia, leading teams globally, and currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer for Unilever’s Digital Distributive Trade business.

An entrepreneur at heart, Prashaant is deeply passionate about leveraging technology and the power of data and analytics to solve real-world challenging problems and have an impact on the lives of millions of people.

Check out Unilever’s Digital Distributive Trade business, Prashaant’s talk at the Adobe Summit, say Hi to Unilever on X (Twitter) at @Unilever and feel free to follow or connect with Prashaant on LinkedIn here.

Thanks to Unilever for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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