What’s in the Pepsi-HUL ‘Career JV’?


This one-of-its-kind JV promises to offer enhanced exposure and learning opportunities to employees of both the companies, but will it stand the test of time and offer more than the usual L&D programmes? Industry observers opine!

FMCG companies Pepsico and Hindustan Unilever (HUL) have entered into a JV. No it’s not one of those usual business joint ventures. It’s one-of-its-kind Career JV as per which both companies will allow select high-potential employees to gain experience at the other firm for two to four months.

The companies involved will keep posting openings as and when they arise and employees can apply for the same to experience a different work culture, tackle new challenges and come back ready to take on more.

As of now, Pepsico’s Apeksha Jain is the only employee from the two companies to have completed the programme. Jain, a member of the HR team at Pepsico, got placed with HUL for a project on assessing the effectiveness of their current learning curriculum, and proposing a capability-building road map across functions.

HUL occasionally sends its employees to work on short- term assignments with other organisations to gain exposure to new skills and also transfer some of the learnings and insights. It’s yet to send an employee to Pepsico as part of this programme.

On the onset, this JV looks promising as a unique learning and talent development initiative to develop high-potential talent. It promises to offer enhanced exposure and learning opportunities to people. Additionally, it also lets them experience a new culture, and in turn, supports leadership development.

However, it is yet to be seen whether it will stand the test of time.

Sharing his thoughts on the initiative, SV Nathan, senior director & chief talent officer, Deloitte, says, “The JV is a very progressive one and is truly a step ahead of the usual learning or talent development programmes. It largely depends on the culture of the organisation to be able to execute something such as this. It takes an immense amount of trust, belief and strong executional abilities to be able to do so.”

Having said that, he cautions that to enter into such an arrangement, it is crucial for organisations to decide on the industry and the company, keeping in mind it’s non-compete or there could be conflict of thoughts.

“The 3Es important for the development of talent are: Education—that’s openly available; Experience—that companies provide to all their employees; and Exposure—which is the most challenging for organisations to provide as it calls for an experience beyond the usual, in a different setup or culture or job role and organisations find it difficult to provide,” Nathan explains.

Even others seem to be floored with the idea, but raise doubts on the execution. There are a few things that organisations need to be careful of while planning and implementing such a programme.

Hemalakshmi Raju, head, learning & development, Cipla, says, “An innovative and promising initiative for the development of high-potential talent, this joint venture will offer very immersive experience to the employees. However, the success of such a programme largely depends on how well it is executed.”

“It’s all about how an organisation structures it. One also needs to plan ahead in terms of before and after an employee leaves for a project and returns into the organisation. Organisations will have to also create a conducive environment and ample opportunities for the employees to be able to apply the learnings when they come back,” Raju opines.

She puts in a piece of advice that organisations should carefully decide on the company for a joint venture as its culture, business area, and so on, will impact the learning and its applicability for an employee undergoing the programme. It is wise to choose companies that are similar or from the same industry, yet non-compete.

In addition, culture fit is extremely crucial, be it in deciding an organisation for the JV or for preparing your talent to fit into a slightly different culture for a few months and then back into their own.

An L&D head with one of the large IT companies shares that the initiative is certainly innovative and one that other organisations should also try working on. “From an individual’s perspective, it is highly exciting that one gets to experience a different company and its culture while being part of one’s own organisation and then coming back to it bringing in a little flavour of the other organisation,” the L&D head says.

Tata Group has been practicing this kind of L&D exchange programmes but within the group. The Pepsi-HUL career JV is certainly a new thought in that direction. If the two companies manage to really benefit from this association, it will pave the path for many such JVs in the future. Hopefully!


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