Hina Nagarajan will lead India’s biggest liquor company

11 Dec 2020

Hina Nagarajan will lead India’s biggest liquor company

Hina Nagarajan has been named as the new managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO) of India’s largest liquor company, United Spirits Limited (USL), which is owned by British drinks giant Diageo, from July next year. With her elevation, she becomes the first woman to head the ₹28,500 crore-alcobev (alcoholic beverage) behemoth. And the industry is elated.The first woman to lead India's largest liquor company is indeed symbolic and may bring a more positive narrative to the industry,” says Sanjay Jain, a financial adviser in the Indian spirits industry. “Calls for the bubbly only to see yet another capable, multifaceted leader take the challenge at the helm of a very visible company. And I like it,” adds Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, managing partner, Multiversal Advisory, a CXO search and advisory firm. Chetty-Rajagopal expressed hope that Nagarajan's elevation was done because she has a history of successful stints behind her. “I’m guessing the focus will be on a spirited, effective leader, [and] not a pink checkboxIn fact, it was Diageo that had first appointed a woman as the MD of its erstwhile India business entity (prior to the integration with USL) in Abanti Sankaranarayanan in 2012. Presently, Sankaranarayanan is the chief strategy and corporate affairs officer at USL—the company’s corporate identity is Diageo India—and has featured four times (2012 to 2015) on Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women in Business list. The other woman executive in the alcobev space is Roshini Sanah Jaiswal, who took over the reins of her family-run business Jagatjit Industries Limited, the makers of Aristocrat whisky, in 2015.The impact of Covid-19, with liquor retail stores having shut shop during the lockdown months, and subsequently, restaurants being barred from serving alcohol, took a toll on USL’s April to September earnings. For the first half of the ongoing fiscal, USL reported a consolidated net loss of ₹121.5 crore as against a net profit of ₹339 crore in the year ago period. Revenue from operations was down 22.35% to ₹11,330 crore.