Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) major Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) reported a 9% increase in second-quarter net profit to ₹2,009 crore, aided by a robust performance in rural markets while demand in urban areas, especially in metropolitan cities, remained muted.Sales climbed 16% to ₹11,276 crore. However, excluding the impact of the merger of GSK Consumer Healthcare and the acquisition of ‘VWash’ (a hygiene product), turnover rose by 3%.Double-digit growth“Health, hygiene and nutrition, forming about 80% of our portfolio, grew in double digits [during the quarter],” the company said in a regulatory filing.“In the context of a challenging economic environment, our growth has been competitive and profitable,” said CMD Sanjiv Mehta.“Our operations and service levels are now back to pre-COVID-19 levels and we have accelerated the pace of digitising our operations,” Mr. Mehta added.“The economic outlook has improved given the various initiatives taken by the government and Reserve Bank of India. In our sector, rural markets have been resilient and providing robust performance but the demand in urban India especially in metropolitan cities has been muted and uncertain. We believe that the worst is behind us and we are cautiously optimistic on demand recovery,” he said.The soaps to packaged foods maker declared an interim dividend of ₹14.During the quarter ended September 30, the company’s household care business did well across all segments led by continued penetration gains. But consumption of laundry products were affected due to confined living in metros.HUL said while the health, hygiene and nutrition businesses performed well, discretion and out-of-home products lagged as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.