Harsh Mariwala Curated

Chairman of the Board and MD, Marico Ltd

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This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Harsh Mariwala have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Harsh Mariwala's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming industrialists. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • What are some of the interesting new programs currently underway at Ascent?

    We are currently working on the Marico Outreach program. As a company, at Marico we decided we wanted to build a lot of capabilities within the employees here, which may not necessarily come from training programmes. We sent an employee from here [Marico] to an Ascent-member SME [small and medium enterprise] to work for two months. Often, in a bigger organisation there are a lot of limitations, especially innovation-wise. Working at a company with a smaller size and scale and organizational structure is a different kind of on-the-job training.

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  • How has entrepreneurship in India evolved in the last few years?

    I think some of the biggest problems that all entrepreneurs face, include funding; the other is people [having the right team] and using the right leadership style, and the third are their partners/promoters. Depending on the kind of business an entrepreneur is operating in, every entrepreneur is bound to face change. These are changes that are brought about thanks to disruptions across business areas like technology or consumer preferences. It’s important for entrepreneurs to realise that change is constant, and dealing with change proactively should be viewed as an opportunity rather than as a threat.

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  • How has entrepreneurship in India evolved in the last few years?

    I think some of the biggest problems that all entrepreneurs face, include funding; the other is people [having the right team] and using the right leadership style, and the third are their partners/promoters. Depending on the kind of business an entrepreneur is operating in, every entrepreneur is bound to face change. These are changes that are brought about thanks to disruptions across business areas like technology or consumer preferences. It’s important for entrepreneurs to realise that change is constant, and dealing with change proactively should be viewed as an opportunity rather than as a threat.

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  • What is it that entrepreneurs learn from peer-to-peer networks that they would miss out on in one-on-one mentoring?

    Openly discussing challenges they are facing at an individual level, be it the relationship within partners, issues at the family level [in a family-business] or what products should they launch. A trust group is a sounding/advisory board for them, which helps them identify the entrepreneur’s blind spots. There are 10 other entrepreneurs from non-competing businesses, with no vested interest in you or your company or product, looking at your business in 10 different ways, critiquing them. These trust groups are put together by our team very carefully. We ensure there is diversity in each group, to ensure there is an open discussion without the fear or threat of any competitors.

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  • What factors do you consider while picking entrepreneurs for Ascent?

    There is a rigorous selection process that every applicant goes through. There are three main factors that we look at – Turnover, the company should atleast be breaking even; the entrepreneurs’ ambition, because we want entrepreneurs who want to grow, and lastly, their intent of learning from others and in contributing to the learning of other entrepreneurs. Once we have onboarded them, these entrepreneurs are distributed into various trust groups with an average size of about 10. They meet on a monthly basis to discuss internal issues.

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  • What inspired you to set up the Ascent Foundation?

    It goes back to when I was thinking of ways to give back to the society, not only financially, but also with some personal involvement. Since I wanted to be involved actively, it was important to me that it was something that I was passionate about. After a lot of soul searching, I decided to work with entrepreneurs directly. An early prototype was that I would work with women entrepreneurs on startups. But the scale of that would have been limited, and I wanted do work that would have a larger impact. We decided to change the focus to both men and women entrepreneurs. But startups need a different kind of intervention and personal hand holding, since its challenges are very different, and there was a limit to which I would be able to do that. Keeping this in mind, in August 2012, we started the Ascent initiative, which is based on peer-to-peer learning platforms. It basically helps entrepreneurs scale up and learn from each other. Over the last six years, we have evolved and we have self-corrected our approach and tried different things. Now it’s far more robust in terms of what we are offering to entrepreneurs.

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  • What are your expectations from your CEOs? What advice would you give them?

    We want to grow more in the FMCG segment and it can be achieved by launching new products. In short, growth and how you achieve it are an important aspect.

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  • How much does international business contribute? What is your outlook for it?

    International business has a contribution of around 22-23%. We have spread our reach in the Middle East, Egypt, South Africa, Vietnam, Nepal and Myanmar, among others. International business is under stress in certain geographies while it is growing well in others.

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  • What is your strategy for growth of the business?

    Being in India, we are supposed to create a balance between rural and urban areas as we can’t say that we want to serve the only rural or urban population. In the process, we should tap into the new opportunities, modernism, trends and new habits of the millennials in the urban area while product level penetration is required in the rural area.

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  • What is your opinion on the growth potential of the country?

    India has the potential, at least when there are talks that we will grow by 6-6.5% growth and I feel that we have capabilities of growing by 8-10%. But this will depend on the role of government and the kind of freedom that is provided to businesses. Why it is running industries and operates Air India? It should focus on governance instead of business. The economy will change if the government withdraws itself and comes with a right governance mechanism. I don’t want to say that the government is not trying to do so, improvement in ease to do business ranking is an example to it, but there are several other things to look forward.

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  • What is your vision for Marico for the next many years?

    I believe in focus, do less but do it in the best way. Thus, we have a focus on beauty and wellness and want to be in beauty and wellness in certain geographies. India is very important and neighbouring developing markets are very important for us. I think we have to grow in these areas through our initiatives.

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  • What is your view on the overall ecosystem where even the government is pushing for innovations?

    It is a good endeavour. We are thinking about innovations in the start-up system at least when the competition has increased in almost everything. If you launch something in the me-too kind of products then you will not be able to succeed. However, innovating or pioneering something new provides more chances of success. It is very important. If we go 10-12 years back then we will find that innovation was not an agenda of the chief executive but today it has turned up to be the topmost important agenda of every chief executive.

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  • Can you provide the number of success stories that have been benefited from you?

    I think it will 10-12 and we are increasing it but are looking for a party that is open to accept and implement our suggestions.

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  • What led you to think about innovation?

    Innovation has played a very important role in Marico's journey. Every innovation at our end has had an unusual impact on our business even in a category like in the case of coconut oil, where we changed the packaging from tin to plastic. The change led to increased sales and market shares. We have initiated something new in the innovation segment 3-4 years back. Under this, we identify 6-8 organisations who are innovative but hasn't scaled. We look out towards ways to encourage it so that it, the innovation, spreads. The process involves Marico employees, several consultants, retired CEOs are also associated with it. The initiative has paid off like Atomberg Technology, a company engaged in manufacturing fans with the ability to save a huge amount of power. Its sales have risen almost 5-6 times from and it has raised around Rs 100 crore from the market. We have helped them a lot in terms of reaching out, scaling and how to market at eCommerce platforms or go for digital marketing.

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  • How has been the journey of Marico Innovation Foundation so far?

    It was started about 10-12 years ago, At its start, we didn't know what we will do, but, we're very confident that there is a need of innovation in India in two segments, business and social side. It was started with an objective to increase innovation in both segments. We took several initiatives, studied things and published a book and sold almost 75,000 copies of the same. Besides, Marico Innovation Foundation's award ceremony is conducted once in every two years and this year's awards ceremony is scheduled to be held on March 11, 2020. It is a compact award function of two hours where all winners, almost six, talks for almost 10 minutes.

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