Messrs. Cescau and Polman, along with other Unilever executives including Harish Manwani, president-Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and at least four other current or former top executives, were there for a dinner to bid farewell to Mr. Cescau and welcome Mr. Polman. The attack on the hotel began just as dinner was scheduled to start.
The Economic Times of India reported that senior personnel from Unilever and some former colleagues were in constant contact with the team by mobile devices and tried to help arrange their rescue.
The Times reported that the entire group was told to lie flat on the floor of the banquet room during the first hour of the attack and that a window had to be broken to let in air after the room filled with smoke.
Mr. Cescau and Mr. Polman left Mumbai shortly after their rescue, Unilever spokesman Trevor Gorin said. "It was a pretty narrow escape is how I would characterize it," he said.
India long has been Unilever's biggest developing market, and the company has long been the biggest multinational player there in package goods, with annual sales of more than $4 billion.