Outsourcing of Unilever


Unilever was shaped because of this of merger of two companies Lever Brothers of UK and Dutch Margarine of Holland in 1930. Since that time Unilever has expanded into 100 countries all over the globe. Catering to nearly every facet of life everyday the corporation has surfaced as among the finest Fast moving Consumer Goods Industry (FMCG) with P&G as the sole competitor. Dividing the functioning of the company into various department of Consultation, circulation, Procedures, maintenance and funding examination has been done as to what was the purpose of the outsourcing the actions to other global businesses like IBM and Accenture to mention a few.

This particular case has been chosen, as it is just a little peculiar.

If Unilever is certainly a huge company with a huge selection of brands across the world then what caused it to outsource to others rather than producing the products itself?

Unilever strictly comes after a four-step method of outsourcing:

* Prioritize- chooses on which functions to outsource. It should be noted that the main competencies and advantages should be totally kept within the company.

* Select- Unilever as stated targets marketing and providing its brand names. Hence while deciding to eliminate it wanted to remove administration and monitoring while focusing on its R&D.

* Trust- this is on of the key issues related to the successfully working. It is extremely essential that the parent or guardian company maintain full confidence in the outsourced company so that the latter cannot take the business enterprise ideas and strategies.

* Screen- Whether or not two firms have a brief history of working mutually business means no trusting without monitoring. Regular monitoring and inspections have to be kept.

Global Business Revolution resulting in Outsourcing

In the 1990's several forces interacted to operate a vehicle forwards the global big business revolution. Liberalisation of trade, capital flows, privatisation, collapse of communism and innovations in IT and migration were the primary forces. Primarily however even with all these increases the large FDI flows were between the developed countries. However as the time elapsed the countries and big companies took the advantages of the political economical views and the competitive advantages to move to the developed countries. (Nolan et Al, 2002)

The structure and performing of R&D within large corporations has always been greatly affected by the overall corporate structure. Specifically it has been associated with the trend from a single composition to multi divisions. Hence even if a company maintained completely internalization it was hard to cope up with the specific needs of product divisions. This progressive structural changes in my own large enterprises from the process of diversification has designed that the possible permutations of the R&D structure and functioning and therefore locational pattern within these companies would be more complicated. (Howells, 1990)

When studying the ideas and strategies followed by the company there are certain drivers, which have keenly affected the decisions of Unilever. Unilever analysis has been done from the delivery of the business in 1930 till date. After a thorough study the main factors were decided and have been extended below in detail.

1. Business deal costs

According to (Coase, 1937) the definition of firm can take into consideration a number of factors. One of the major factors of a firm is the controlling of price system. The direction in which the firm uses its resources is straight dependent on the purchase price device. This price device includes the transaction costs borne by the firm. Within a single firm these purchase costs are not completely but greatly reduced. One of the major reasons for the big companies, which broaden their products or capacity, is to remove these varieties of intra company costs. The other important reason behind the lifetime is the desire of a lot of people to control however, not to be manipulated and also to exercise electric power over others. Hence the businessman bears out the function at less cost taking into account that the organization gets factors of development, which it supersedes, and the firm can always revert back again to the open up market if it fails to produce efficiently.

The exchange transfer costs on market and the costs within a firm are also treated completely differently by the regulatory physiques. The market costs may involve the various types of taxes like sales duty while a company involves quota schemes and other methods of price control. A company of the level of Unilever has tons of costs within a firm and has to take several decisions to be able to balance the internal and exterior costs. On the main one hand is whether it will internalize completely or completely outsource to be able to specialize. Outsourcing completely would boost the costs to a great amount while internalizing completely wouldn't normally supply the most ideal quality. The very best balance between the two must be obtained to be able to remain consistent with the aim and the long-term goals of the business.

Unilever initially concentrated on widening its firm size by moving to different countries and increasing its product range. Once we see today Unilever is a perfect balance between its primary internalization and huge outsourcing.

Another dimension is usually that the welfare gains may take place where a new market is established which never been around before. Welfare losses however come up when the multinationals boost monopoly gains by restricting the productivity of goods and services. A firm following internationalization allows more cross-functional and inter seed integration and in the permanent this can stimulate both R&D and its own effective integration in creation and marketing. Unilever's strategy can be considered with regard to this aspect from its formation in 1930 till around 1970 Unilever centered on internalization. During this time period they centered on increasing its R&D, production, marketing and increasing all across the globe. (Buckley, 1990)

2. Strategic decision and control

According to Buckeley (1990) the long term characteristics of internationalization cannot exclude the competitive advantages a firm possesses which might in the future be imitated by its rivals. These internationalization benefits can only exist in imperfectly marketplaces. For Unilever the internationalization of R&D and other process would become outdated in the long run. Utmost care should be taken to distinguish these long run benefits and cost of internalized R&D items from competitive short run advantages by the scientific lead.

Further as the enlargement of Unilever continued internationalization of marketplaces over the international frontiers allowed the reduction of the firm's overall tax bill relative to other organizations, which traded. It proved to be a tactical weapon against organization in a few strategies. However as time passes analyzing the truth and the relative simplicity was an issue of concern. This trade off got to vary depending on the task at hand and the health of the marketplaces.

Buckeley (1988)

The general declaration that the imperfect markets will be internalized till the huge benefits equal the expenses need to be restricted by defining costs and benefits with regards to particular marketplaces at specific details of time and over the economic space. Although the price of internalization of a company is a proper decision to increase profits however a number of conflicting views have come up by economists. This theory has unconventional instances like those involving foreign direct investment. Increased changes in sociable and political conditions, technology and techniques, likes and demand patterns have an impact upon the division of labor and the many costs conditions involved. This new department of labor is ever more leading to a vertically involved framework. The vertical structure subsequently is leading to a multi vegetable operation and intra organization trade. This combo of internalization pressures and location of costs results in new department of the industry each focusing on its area. Financial firms not really a global strategy. This plan is constrained by a value string and the many coordination issues. Unilever, which also as stated above following internalization in the first years now focuses on outsourcing.

Outsourcing which is mainly the international department of labor is of the key strategies accompanied by the firms to focus on their competencies whilst presenting deals to other companies for other departments. (Buckley, 1988)

Hymer's theory brought to the world the idea of international businesses of national companies. Many firms looking to develop worldwide are doing so by the procedure of International Investment. This international investment can be grouped into International Portfolio investment and international direct investment (FDI). (pg 21)

Unilever main region of concentrate is the international direct investment funds.

Again the FDI can take place by direct circulation of cash or by franchising, licensing, Alliances, joint projects and subcontracts. Unilever runs on the combination of these to expand. For example in China (pg 57) because of access issues it focused on joint ventures. These are contrary to Buckley's theory of internationalization, which helps you to save the costs. However when we consider the first major determinant of Hymer's theory of specific benefit we see that Unilever's outsourcing insurance plan is directly related to it. The specific advantage policy talks about that exploitations in the market and defects in foreign markets provide a competitive gain to the company. When Unilever needed to expand in India they did so by collaborating with lots of partners in several areas. Although this increased theoretically business deal costs the decrease with which it set up itself, as a brand would have taken a very long time otherwise. Certain happenings like these of India and China brought to light the actual fact that the organization had been realizing that only internalization will not at all be adequate.

Taking an email of these various reasons as to the reasons Unilever, which at first focused on internalization, would now give attention to externalization or outsourcing. Some experts believe that dividing the task to companies, which focus on it, could have lower costs for the same goods than the cost at which the business produces it. This would be striking the balance with the business deal costs and the expenses of internalization. However a study done demonstrates only 29% of the folks consider the cost reduction factor. A significant factor is the grade of the finished products. Outsourcing will improve the organization's usage of a range of experts and specialists. It is usually hard for a major company like Unilever to keep an eye on advancements in every field of operation. Outsourcing certain functions would make it to act in response quickly to changing market demand and supply. Hence the company to maintain its quality requirements would rather separate it among other companies.

3. Outsourcing and Developments in ICT

(Kim and Ummnath 2005, cited in Yamin and Sinkovics 2007) see technological breakthrough in indie partnerships since it radically changes the technological landscape companions and allows associates to exploit ICT features. Slowly and gradually the federative system is now extinct and folks are moving more towards outsourcing. This essentially has two proportions- the disintegration of subsidiary value chains and development of outsourcing scheduled to increasing modulation and increasing ICT systems. A healthy integration of the company is developed since the process involves electronic integration. Electronic integration carries a variety like coordination of decision and procedure integration, mutual investment in relationship specific belongings, information writing and monitoring control.

Unilever follows this plan exactly in the same manner by establishing one of the primary deals with IBM. Unilever in connection with this theory has made a decision to signal a long-term seven-year contract to enhance its financial services in Europe. Unilever believes that will provide "long term benefits for Unilever and is also "a strong exemplory case of the new on demand business in IBM is focusing on available on the market for business performance change services, IBM said. (silicon. com)

However this particular circumstance of Unilever is quite stunning. It has agreements with a few of the biggest and evenly powerful company on the globe. Relating to (ICT) it was believed that allowing such a great control in the MNE's the business may be at a risk which may decrease the long-term viability. Care and attention should be often taken in such a way that the company doesn't start burning off its business to companies to that your job has been outsourced. Sometimes care has often been taken up to first set up trust by building a short-term agreement and then increasing it. Often Unilever in addition has looked after full control of its business by sending some individuals from Unilever to Horsepower so the internal performing of the business and the data is kept intact.

Apart from the ICT there is usually a discussion about MNC on exploitation and exploration. Exploitation refers to the use, refinement and expansion of the existing features while exploration identifies creating the adaptive features of the business. Generally in most companies "exploitation drives out exploration(Ahuja et Al, 2001). Unilever while following a exploitation also required steps to ensure that exploration is also moving hand in hand. That is very visible from the business product expansions. While at some point it was trying to improve its products and enhancements by exploitation its existing technologies and in other countries it was establish market efficiency by collaborating or making contracts with market market leaders in the same company.

4. Outsourcing Innovation

The results from Unilever further provide helps to the view that decentralization of invention enhances the overall innovative role of MNEs. Yamin and Otto (2004) discovered that internal and external knowledge flows have a complementary and reinforcing positive effect on ground breaking performance. The performance of some products that had been received, it was obvious that external cable connections were key to highly profitable future enhancements. As Hymer input it ˜decentralization in just a company is often not the opposite of centralization, but the complement. This is again immediately related to gaining the know-how in a specific subject by reducing the expenses of the firm's staff and R&D and acquiring it from another firm excelling in it.


It is very noticeable from this particular research study that the company has very strategically followed a growth path in accordance with the key theory of Hymer. In short Unilever slowly relocated from internalization to externalization. This change was caused gradually and was to the benefit of the company in the long run. The outsourcing was important to increase knowledge at the extra costs but also a strong trust had to be established between your two. The contracts had to be carefully established so as never to disclose the inner company strategies whilst seeking to establish complete knowledge in the outsourced team. Extra care should be considered for companies like Unilever where even the outsourced companies were as significant as the parent or guardian company. Unilever even today is putting its utmost give attention to expanding its core competencies to perfection and serve the finest quality of products and services to its customers. Unilever using its strategies has indeed established a unique brand name all over the world and this has indeed been made possible by outsourcing also to some of the finest companies. It can also be noted that though Unilever outsources to IBM it also outsources to other medium level firms than it. Personally Personally i think this can help to keep a regular check up on their services. This perfect balance, trust, coordination and move of information between the two companies have managed to get possible to hint deals worthy of millions. The work done by Coase, Buckeley and Yamin has indeed been very significant and it's been possible to connect it right to the actions of the companies at the many stages of the expansion of the company.


Buckeley, P. (1988) The restrictions of Reason: Screening the Internationalization Theory of Multinational Enterprise. University or college of Bradford

Buckeley, P. (1990) Problems and Advancements in the main of International Business. Ph. D. College or university of Bradford

Coase, R. (1937) THE TYPE of the Company. Available from: (source absent)

Yamin, M and Sinkovics, R. (2007) ICT and MNE reorganization: the paradox of control. Manchester Business School

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