Episode 126 / July 19, 2021

Marico Founder, Harsh Mariwala on Brand building, Growth and Culture

39 min

Episode 126 / July 19, 2021

Marico Founder, Harsh Mariwala on Brand building, Growth and Culture

39 min
Listen on

# Saffola – Cooking Oil

# Parachute Advansed – Hair Oil

# Nihar Naturals – Hair Oil

# Set Wet – Hair Gel

# Livon Hair Serum and many more…

You must have seen or used at least one of these names in your house, on TV, or in Newspaper Ad right?

Do you know what connects all these names? Its Marico Ltd, one of India’s leading consumer products companies operating in the global beauty and wellness space.

Marico touches the lives of 1 out of every 3 Indians, through its portfolio of brands.

In today’s episode, we have with us Harsh Mariwala, the man behind building Marico for over 30+ years, with a Market Cap. of 68,000cr+ and making it a common name in every Indian home.

During the podcast, he shares with us how he experienced the Ins & Outs of business from childhood at family’s dinner-table discussions and how he joined the family business – Bombay Oil Industries at an early age, and built Marico, a Fortune India 500 company.

Notes –

02:02 – “When business topics get discussed in your presence, then even if you may not be able to add value, you’ll get a good understanding of the business.”

04:15 – Early exposure to the brand & business at the age of 20

06:02 – Forming Marico as a separate entity in the 1990s

11:27 – Building the team at Marico

13:50 – “Involvement brings in commitment, and you have to involve people in some organizational issues if you want their commitment.”

17:46 – Thought process behind Brand-Building

19:54 – First taste of success with Parachute & Saffola oil

22:15 – Personal Social Responsibility initiatives by Marico

26:19 – Reduction in entry barriers for consumer brands

27:47 – Levers of growth as an individual

30:11 – Treating your employees as Brand Ambassadors

34:33 – Advice to entrepreneurs to pioneer in their segment

36:11 – Source of learnings: Books & Thought leaders


Read the full transcript there:


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:00

Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Welcome to the 100x entrepreneur podcast. Today, I have with me Harsh Mariwala, Founder of Marico. Sir, you are a legend in this country, and entrepreneurs, you know, aspiration to be like you, would love to, you know, first welcome you on the podcast. And then start by knowing your journey, right? You came from a very humble background of traditional business family. And now you have built an institution, which will, you know, surpass you build a legacy. First, thank you so much, and would love to start, you know, by knowing before Marico, what were you doing your family background?


Harsh Mariwala 00:52

Okay. So, thank you, thank you for inviting me to your podcasts. And I’m very happy that the first time for me, and I believe your, your platform is doing very well. So, congratulations and all the best. Let me start off by talking about myself. I’m, I’m just a commerce graduate. I finished my college from Bombay in Sydenham and the age of 20, i joined the family business, which comprised of my father and three of my uncles. And office was located in the heart of commodity markets in Masjid Bandar. And they were not professionals. It was a typically family managed organization. And we were all staying in one same house in Haji Ali. And so, it was a large joint family where my father, three of my uncle’s, my grandfather, and then all the children. So, it was like a huge joint family. And we used to discuss a lot of I mean, the business used to get discussed at home a lot also. So that was really me shall I say, initiation into business because you know, when the business piece gets discussed, and when you’re present, then you at least you’re you may not, you may not be able to add value, but the fact that the business is being discussed at home. I think that’s how I started getting some good understanding of business and I was thrown into the company by my father without any guidance, and without any direction. So, I started exploring different parts of business. We had a chemicals business, we had a spice extracts business, we also had an edible oil business. And the edible oil business was mainly selling unbranded to other industries in large barrels and make 15-liter tins which was again being retailed by the trades in small containers, which were brought by the consumers in lose you know, and we also salute to supply a lot of oil in tankers, coconut oil in tankers to a company in in East and they used to pack it in small packs. The name of the brand is Shalimar, which is mainly centric. So that’s how, you know, in my exploration for one year, I did visit all the factories, I visited the markets, I have all the businesses and then I realized that if I am able to can convert the business of edible oils, loose unbranded edible oils to branded, the business will be far more sustainable with far more profitable. And that’s how I began the journey of distribution, network expansion, brand building. So that was my starting point. But there were a lot of odds fighting at that time, odds about being located in a Masjid Bander, or it’s about not having any professional in the organization. So, I had to take on those challenges from a very, very early stage, you know, and we were not able to attract talent, specially for a branded consumer goods company, talent plays a very important role, talent is like the sales talent or the brand talent, because you recruit from the good fmcg companies, you know. So, one had to recruit and make some suboptimal decisions because the quality of talent, one was not able to recruit, I started working with individual consultants, and I would meet them in the evening, over the weekends at night or many times. And that’s how I started learning the business, the ropes of the business on my own, you know, but since then, it has been continuous. And yet, I think, you know, my entire career I you know, almost 40-50 years, I don’t think I’ve seen any year where the sales, the fallen or the profits have fallen. So, it’s been a very interesting journey. Very exciting, very challenging. And over a period of time, the company has changed completely from what it was to what it is today. At that time, it was Bombay, all industries. And then at some stage in the early 90s. I was able to convince the family that the consumer products business needs a separate kind of up Culture, identity. So please allow me to take this business in a different company. And that’s how Marico was from the 1990. To me, that was the biggest decision my life, if I had not been able to convince my family, I would have been struggling looking at the family dynamics. By the end four or five, my cousin’s our joint business, there were conflicts in terms of allocation of resources in terms of image building, the location of the office, dual reporting multiple people in the in the in the company. So, this was a big, big move. And I was the only person from the family was involved in Marico, and that also at the top. So that has given me to me looking back, that has been the biggest decision in my life. And then if you want, I can talk post Marico, which is long story, but I leave it to what you wanted to talk about.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 05:52

what age were you at that point?


Harsh Mariwala 05:54

I joined business when I was 20, I passed out of school in 16 out of college at 20. So at 20, I joined I wanted to study further, but my father didn’t allow me to go abroad, I was not that bright in studies to get admission to the management schools in India, Iike IIM Calcutta. IIM Ahmedabad and Bajaj school of management, these were the 3 main schools of management at that sort of time in the early 70s.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 06:25

And so, you were roughly then 35 years of age when you started Marico?


Harsh Mariwala 06:31

I was, it happened 1990? No, I was a fall of 40. I was 39 years to be exact. Yeah,


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 06:40

yeah, must have been really tough to convince our traditional family to let go of a part of their business, and you are obviously withholding all your shares in that business to them, and asking them to separate?


Harsh Mariwala 06:52

No, it is not a financial separation, it was just a management separation. Okay, so it was just a management separation, where the company got divided into three, four different subsidiaries. And each of my cousin’s took over one part of the business. But in terms of ownership, it is all together owning the same percentage that is 25%, which considering the fact that my father had three brothers. So totally four brothers. So, I also had a 25% shareholding in Marico and I started


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 07:23

gardening, and you weren’t able to keep the management with a single focus with a single family member in each of those separate entities the business?


Harsh Mariwala 07:32

Yeah, I think that was the thinking that, you know, I think, when you have multiple family members, I’m not saying that model will not succeed. But there are complications, because you know, you the ambition, levels are different, the way of thinking is different. And the relationships are very complex, you’re related at one stage, you are also managing together, you’re also owner together. So separating all this specially in inter functional or intergenerational issues, adds to complexity, you know, and there is lack of openness because of respect and things like that. So, we said that if you really have to operate on a merit basis, then it’s better that only one family member is there in each business, and that also at the top. So that was the thinking while going into Marico, one only me Marico at that time.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 08:24

So, I would say you reinvented how family business’s function.


Harsh Mariwala 08:30

I don’t know whether to call it reinvention. But I was able to come out of a difficult situation in a large family and how do you how do you build consensus is a big challenge, you know, because I could have fought with them, but that would have gone forever, you know. So, it was through a consensus building process. It took two or three years for me to convince them but looking back, it was fully worth it. Because it’s been the most important decision in my life. If I had not been able to navigate to Marico, I would have still been struggling looking at all the issues which I talked about earlier about talent, image building, allocation, resources, doing reporting and things like that.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 09:14

19 years of, you know, operating in the traditional family business, what are the things that you learned, that you brought into Marico?


Harsh Mariwala 09:23

So, a lot, I not only looked at the consumer products, but in different times in that 19 year, I’m looking at the chemical side, also some part of spice extracts also. So, I think how to run a business is the largest learning and how do you because I built up the whole organization professionally. So how do you build a culture? How do you recruit professionals? At that time, I didn’t have any other functional knowledge. So, my initial years were spent a lot in terms of improving a functional knowledge, whether it’s marketing or distribution. offer a development, or manufacturing or quality assurance, all the functions, you know, or so I think all that happened through our network of individual consultants, and then over a period of time, we were able to recruit some good talent, you know, so I learned a lot from our own team of professionals, you know. So, I think it was a very good ground for me in terms of learning. And in that phase also developed in leadership style, which still goes on till today. And that got converted. And then I converted those leadership issues and values in Marico. in building a Marico culture, which is based on my earlier learnings in Bombay, well, which has more to do with openness, participation, trust, building innovation, so I think all those things are learned in the first 19 years.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 10:47

And so, if you can share the journey post 90s from the day you started Marico,


Harsh Mariwala 10:54

slow, it’s, that to me just opened up a lot of, shall I say, my frustrations in all of a sudden, I was a free man. And I could do what I wanted to do. So, my first step was to recruit very good quality talent. My first recruit was head of HR, because I thought that if I had to recruit good talent, from good companies, I have to have very good HR professional, because no matter me saying that, it’s a professionally managed company will cut ties with the professionals. And if I have with me, a head of HR will talk with me to the other professionals, you will be able to convince them to join. So, with him, my recruiter top talent as well as senior talent within a period of a year or so about 30 of them joining me. So, all of a sudden, I had a completely new team. And I think that also was good at an individual level I really very capable, but at a collective level, it was chaotic, because each one came from a different set of backgrounds, beliefs, values, in terms of how do you deal with people or products, and it was quite chaotic for a non-performer, somebody will say we should, we should give them a chance, somebody will say we should train them, somebody will say we should get rid of them. So, I had to define the way to operate, just to bring in some sort of unity, some sort of uniformity in terms of how the whole team is working, and how Marico should function, you know. So that’s how our value journey began, I started writing down a lot of notes shared with my team, got their inputs, and then went down one level lower, again, expose these values to them got their inputs. So, at the end of all the deliberations, we had a value document, which was not my document, but our document because they were involved. And I think that taught me that the environment brings in commitment, and you have to involve people in some key organizational issues, if you want to get the commitment. And in culture building, you know, where the top has to send the right signals, if I say something, and if I do something contrary to what I’m saying, then people down the line will start making fun of me, I didn’t want that to happen. So, the whole team was all completely bought into the values and they started exhibiting the values and culture from day one, and I think that played a very important role in creating strong culture, we should design for Marico, you know, for a consumer product company or culture, which is very open participative trusting, empowering, which is built on merits and most importantly, which was innovative. So, for innovation to happen, you need diverse set of people, you need a flat structure, new empowering, you have to remove a fear of failure, and you have to encourage people to experiment. And I think all that played a very, very important role in attracting talent retaining talents, and driving innovation growth. And since then, we have we have grown Well, basically, we expanded from parachute to coconut oil, saffola, refined clarity, oil to a whole range of products, hair oils, healthy foods, and many other products. And we also went from India to international, we went from private to public. So, the whole I mean, it was earlier family marriage returned to professional, earlier it was commodity kind of brands, then we became fmcg brands. Earlier, the value add was lower than the value was high. Our margins were lower earlier now. Now they’re much higher. First, we were in India, and now it’s International. So, we have progress on each of those parameters in terms of shifting and now we are I mean we are rated in terms of valuations, the way the capital market treats us is on par with any other fmcg company. So, I think we’ve come a long way but we went through our own set of learnings, when we went public also it was perceived to be a commodity company, where because of commodity pricing, you know, you may not be able to protect your margins, but we have to show it to the market that we you can depend on us because we have very strong brands. And if you look at our brands in almost all our branded products and 100% turnover through brands, we are market leaders in that particular segment. So, market leadership gives us pricing power is able to help us protect margins, you know. So again, goes back to what is the portfolio choice and how we were chosen where to operate it? And how do you create a right to win by pioneer initiatives, and by innovation on a perpetual basis, you know, and then back it up with very good talent with a strong culture. And the third thing I will talk about is governance, you know, I think governance has played a very, very important role in my journey. From day one, I’ve ensured that whatever we do is aboveboard, we don’t do any Hanky Punky, we don’t evade any taxes, we fully compliant on legal issues, so no shortcuts. And I think that again, sets a very good example to professionals that this is a very clean company, and not only to professionals, but to also all their stakeholders, whether it is your employees, your recruiting, or whether it’s a board of directors, or the society. So, it’s something one has to build. And one has to do that from day one, rather than saying that I will look at governance from when I become big, you know, because if you don’t tackle those issues, the culture of the organization will, will not change when you grow. So, it’s very important to start sowing those seeds of good governance when you’re small.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 16:24

So how did you think about brand building? Because you come from a different background, but your vision was to build several brands? Right? Yeah, what are the first principles thinking if you can go back to?


Harsh Mariwala 16:40

so, I am not a technical person, I’m very first. So, I was very clear that I’m not going to be in a business pitch, which is going to where I’m not good at, I have to leverage my strengths. So, one had to and I’m also not very good in b2b kind of interactions, you know, I don’t like to move and you know, sell something to somebody, I’m not a smooth talker, like that. So, I had to be in a business, which involved mass where I don’t have to sell it to my customers. And just happened by chance. I mean, I never knew what I was going to do. Once I passed out of my college, you know, I never had any clue. But this initial forays into coconut oil and refined safflower oil, just stand on my hands. And I realized that I really like this kind of work, this kind of business, and I’m good at it also. So, it just fitted in, you know, there’s no preconceived notion that I have to go, I didn’t have any vision or anything like that. And then the vision was, you know, and then you when you succeed in everything, you say, okay, I’m going to do a few more things. Okay, there are failures, I’ve had multiple failures, but every failure has had learning opportunities, and we have tried to improve and in fmcg, you know, globally one or two out of 10 launches succeed. So, I was prepared for that. And you know, whether it is because of lack of consumer insight, or we lack of competitive, we thought we could beat some competition, some areas. So, I think net, I’m saying that we made mistakes, to learn from failures. And I think our portfolio products has grown we’ve gone both growth as well as through organic means as well as we acquired brands in India as well as outside India. What are the first seeds if you remember, that made parachute and saffola for, the household names that they are current today. So, it has evolved over a period of from 0% market share in parachute, we became a market leader now 50% plus. And the first phase was our quality was very good, I must say, that is something which I must credit my family that they were producing very good coconut oil. So that actually there’s some sort of cutting edge in the marketplace as far as the competition is concerned. So, the first set of you may call it success or, our first taste of success happened with a distribution network, and because I good quality and then we did all that, but again, we’re stuck at a certain market share. And at that time, we realized that, if we innovate, we’ll be able to increase our market share. And that’s how we converted the whole market from tin to plastics, because tin is expensive, much more expensive, than plastics, it’s much more convenient to use is more effective than tins. So, but we went through your learning curve in launching, so that plastics launch over a period of five or seven years, just increase our market share from 15% to 50%, you know, so and attaching that data very, very important role and we were because you were making extra money compared to the other competitors who are packing intense. You’re reinvesting in marketing, you know, and I think that led to us becoming a market leader.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 19:49

And so, over a period of time you have you know, increase your philanthropic activities, both as an individual and an organization. And you always stress on the need to give back, can you share more philosophy of yours on that?


Harsh Mariwala 20:09

So, I we call it you know, the company side is known as CSR, which is formally known, which is corporate social responsibility, which comprises of three different legs of initiatives we take. One is the Marico innovation foundation. And the objective is to feel innovation within India by doing a variety of initiatives, whether it’s Innovation Awards and innovative books, innovation courses, helping innovative organizations scale up, I mean, hackathons and things like that. So, there is that part which a person is still reports to me, then there is agriculture part. Now we buy a lot of that stuff, and we have Agri extension wing and the whole objective is to improve farmers productivity. And that gets done mainly in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka. And it’s growing extremely well, we’ve been able to buy just better cropping practices, the farmer productivity has increased by 15%. And if you convert that into rupees and annualized crop farmers in the states are earning 200 cr extra every year, because of the help given on them. We also buy directly from them earlier, they were supplying to traders, so a whole host of initiatives in improving Agri production activities. Another one and third one is an education, some of our brand’s support, education. So, we will look at girl child, we also have podcast too, to make girl child learn and not only girl child, all the children learn English. So, I think these are the three pillars of corporate social responsibility. And I strongly believe that apart from corporate at a personal level, one has to do something you know. So, there are two initiatives. One is ascent which is, therefore lasts many years now. And what eight, nine years, and we are working with a lot of intrapreneurs, we have 800 intrapreneurs today, and they join without any cast and is funded by me. And they learn from each other. And also, there are many events ascent organizers, you know, there are webinars, sessions, if during normal times, we have a conclave every year where we invite the best speakers. And then we also have other programs for them power a program where you tied up with the consultants, retired official who help these entrepreneurs in their own set of issues. And then they also learn from each other through what we call trust groups. So that’s growing quite well. And now with the pandemic, we opened it to all India earlier it was just Bombay then went to Chennai, and if any of your listeners are interested in joining ascent, I would strongly suggest that have a look at ascent. And you can look at there are some conditions to join in terms of size, and scale. And then there’ll be some interview just to ensure that the we allow the right person to come in. But whoever is selected, we have had a very good feedback on ascent. And the Finally, on giving side, I also have initiative in the area of mental health for last six years we’ve been doing work. And we are the largest funders to other mental health organization in the country. We are as of now today we are supporting 26 organizations in the area of mental health in Bombay, we are supporting I call which is which is a line to help individuals if this call up or if they send the email. It’s completely free of cost. And this meant by a 20-member team, where they would be in touch with the person who will call up and you know, give them guidance in terms of mitigating stress, anxiety, depression and things like that. So mainly, I would say that these are the two critical personal initiatives and we call it PSR which is personal social responsibility, just like CSR, which is a corporate social responsibility. And I personally spend a lot of time on both ascent, mariwala Health Initiative which is the mental health part as well as the innovation foundation


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 24:05

Have you been actively involved in the Indian startup ecosystem?


Harsh Mariwala 24:11

we have investment offices by Sun runs. And I think anyone wants and I get a lot of requests from individuals may not be startup it could be some somebody who was at a much more mature stage for mentoring so and I like mentoring entrepreneurs, even are ascent members of so many times on average, I have one or two mentoring sessions every month, depending on what the challenge. But beyond that I’m I mean, I know people from Indian angels and you know, the other one I forget, but I think I’ve spoken at many events like that, but otherwise I’m not actively involved in the startup system


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 24:52

do you think Now the ability to build a brand or consumer brand has eased over the years since the time you started.


Harsh Mariwala 25:02

So, the situation is dramatically changed, earlier, there are many entry barriers entry barriers, because of distribution, you needed All India distribution network, which is very expensive to maintain, you need a certain critical mass, you need sales staff to visit all the retailers, you need distributors, you don’t need all that you can just do it through e commerce. Earlier you need big advertising because you are to advertise and television press again, you need a budget of 10-20-30 crores in order to launch a product. Now you can do digital marketing. So, the entry barriers have reduced dramatically if you want to market it through what is known as D2C route, you know, direct to consumer, I think that has seen the emergence of many newer players in personal products and foots. Many new brands have emerged in the last two years because of the anti-barriers going away. And I think it’s fantastic, you know, we’re seeing more and more innovations coming in from youngsters from new entrepreneurs. So, whether it is mama earth or we also acquired a D2c Brand called Beardo about two years back. So, it’s a very good development where, you know, you’re seeing a lot of youngsters who have good ideas to tap these opportunities.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 26:14

if I can ask, over the last, since you started Marico, what have been your levers of growth as an individual because your business kept on changing, and, you know, delivering profits. As you mentioned, it never went up or loss. And, uh, yeah, and also, you had to grow as a leader, the challenge was on your shoulder also.


Harsh Mariwala 26:39

So, I think to me, you know, leader’s role changes, you know, when you’re very small in the initial scene, I was doing everything I was pitching the advertising agency, how they put approving their ads, then once you reach a certain stage, you recruit marketing ads, and then you allow them to operate. And also, from doing things, your role shifts to getting things done. And at that time, you need to have the right balance, you know, if you have recruited good talent, if you have good talent, then you have to delegate and empower them, you can’t say that I will be involved in everything, because I was doing it fast enough. So, the role changes from doing things to getting things done. And that is a completely different role where and you know, you have to ensure that you have good talent, they speak to each other, there’s enough team building in that thing, there are systems process to evaluate. So that was the second phase. And then when you become much larger than you know, your role shift to influencing other, you know, by talking by giving lectures and thing like so, I think that role shift for any entrepreneur is very, very important. And you have to reinvent yourself. Every few years, you know what you’re doing in the past, you can’t go on doing it all the time. Because if you do that you will not have the time to expand. So, you have to free yourself. And that’s how you start new businesses. started by asking, the next one says step down from the directorship of Marico have started another business in terms of Aqua centric, and then we have an investment office, I spend a lot of time in giving initiatives. So, a year to reinvent. And I think reinvention also brings a new set of skills, it gives you knew experiences and new learning. So, I think that’s been my that’s how I moved on over a period of time.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 28:17

And how do you know because now, you have a complete professional management at Marico, how do you hire leaders who are much better than you.


Harsh Mariwala 28:28

So that has always been my listing that they had to be better than me, then only my ability to delegate will be higher, you know, so and that means that you have to create a stronger employee value proposition you have to be valued in the job market, the war for talent is, is much. Most employers don’t realize the war for talent, to me, if they tackle the war for talent, and able to attract talent, then, you know, their job will be much easier, you know, so from day one, we’ve been trying to improve the image of the organization, if you look at whoever stayed with us and gone out, we treat them as a master, you know, because they can spread the word around over Marico, if you’re looking for a job in Marico. And if you know, one of our colleagues who was with us earlier, you will check with him over the experience at Marico, and if you hear good things, then you will be more open to join us. So I think you have to treat your ex-employees also as ambassadors, you know, and they can improve the image and also do the right thing where you get written about whatever the culture you built, or the strong governance you have, or the freedom you give individuals to operate and so you have to attract good talent and once you are able to improve the quality of talent there has to be done perpetually every year you’re doing for your company because the business is getting complex, you know, earlier didn’t have any other digital initiative now your digital so you need to continuously evolve and improve your talent and create a culture where that talent will thrive.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 29:53

And the second question is the right retaining that leadership.


Harsh Mariwala 29:58

Yes, people So it’s a big challenge, even for good organizations having this negative is that it becomes a poaching ground. If I build a good image for Marico saying that I have good talent, people are diverse, versatile, they can do a variety of jobs, then to that extent somebody wants to poach from us, but at the same time, we are able to recruit good talent. So, you need to have good succession pipeline. In other way, what is the most important thing, the culture and the role of the what is the challenge available in the job and how, how the boss is supporting the subordinate, you know, so I think these these things play important role financially, of course, you have to ensure that they, they’re not underpaid, and you have to create specially at senior levels, you have to create some wealth, creating opportunities through ESOPs and all the companies doing well then I think they will also benefit through the wealth creation options, you know.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 30:52

So, in in traditionally, from even from the first advertisement, the TV advertisement, we have seen for saffola as well as for parachute, right? Every ad was centered around a family, right? family member caring about each other. would like to know, from you, right? Where did this thought process come from? Is it your closest?


Harsh Mariwala 31:20

No, no, actually, it’s ultimately in in marketing a product here to see where the product is going to be used. So, both the products you want the family to be used, and not one individual, you know, so clearly, it has to be targeted towards family, you know, if you’re using an edible oil than the family, it’s inevitable. So, you have to, it’s not a product. So, most of parachute and saffola are bought for the family, it is not brought for an individual, for example, you may have a shampoo where some individual may like one set of shampoos, somebody else will like some other brands of shampoo. In this case, we were very clear that the whole family should be using and if the family uses, then you’ll not have multiple brands in the family. So, I think from that point of view, we wanted to make it for family. But some products it is for males like we have male grooming product like set wet, I can’t, I can’t market that for family It is mainly for youth and young people who are looking more grooming issues whether it is the gel or, the wax, you know, this is only relevant for young youth, so I have to market it with them there. I can’t talk to families.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 32:25

So, over the last five years, since you have been, you know, distance yourself and given over the reins to professional management, do you feel the longing to go back? Because it’s been your child?


Harsh Mariwala 32:38

That’s the most tempting part, for most entrepreneur that they want to go back. But no, clearly, I don’t want to go back. I don’t think I’ll ever go back because of two reasons. One is, I think now the environment has changed, you need much younger kind of input from young managers. Number two, I chose a successor who’s done well, so you know, I can go and get back into your show, you know. So, I think our job is my job is to ensure that on a perpetual basis, I can create a succession pipeline for future and not go back to what I was doing.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 33:13

So, the mentals as a mentor, the entrepreneur of you guide, and advice, right? What are what are the basic principles that you learned? That you tell them? And what are the things that have changed that that you said, you know, you have to evolve over what I learned or for the last 20 years?


Harsh Mariwala 33:32

So, I go back to them the same thing which I talked about earlier, you know, create a right to a highly competitive environment. And if you are a me-too product, then your revenue for succeeding marketplaces is not there. And then right to win will differ depending on the kind of business you are. If you’re in service-oriented business service, the kind of service you’re providing unique service, it could be, or if you’re in a technology business, the patient you have in a pharma business will act as a niche for you to succeed, but you have to be differentiated or you can pioneer and segment which others have not been there, for example, vaccines in a Bharat biotech or Cadila, they there come out with their own set of vaccine, then they pioneer. So I think the key thing is to identify Do you have a right to win and how strong is your right to win and you have to maintain that right to win on a perpetual basis because other will copy and then back it up with very good talent and culture and then governance and I go on this three principles of right to win creating a differentiation, talent, culture and governance play a very important role in any entrepreneur journey and most importantly, the role of entrepreneur which again, I talked about that the role the entrepreneur cannot be wedded to doing things what he did when he started the business it has to shift if he doesn’t shift he or she doesn’t shift, then the business will not grow there is a limit to which you can handle size you know, and your role shifts then you know, unless you are able to reboot And then delegate that will be very difficult for you to manage everything in the business.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 35:05

So, what has been your form of learning? Do you read books you interact with?


Harsh Mariwala 35:12

Yeah, I think multiple one is definitely I read a lot of books, I read on average one book a month, I also interact a lot with thought leaders. And I also written a book which is going to get published and in end July, the name of the book is harsh reality that is published by Penguin Random House and I have a co-author and Professor Ramchanran who’s again a management guru. And I know him well I worked with a lot of individual consultants so I interact a lot with thought leaders and I know that some of you great ideas I read a lot I do a lot of internet searches. So I think that’s my source of learning you know, I listen to a lot of podcasts in the morning when I go for a walk I am listening to something or other in the morning I was listening to some podcasts on P&G and innovation and you know the revived innovation engine, so I think you have to go on being open absorbed for what’s happening internationally even friends visiting I visited US about three years back two years back just to get what are the new emerging brands are doing what is unique thing they’re doing you know, whether it’s vegan or whether it is sustainably issue or all birds which I talked about the shows, these are all emerging brands as a matter of time, they will all come to India so you have to keep your eyes Your eyes open to various ways of going through reading interacting as well as visiting and observing


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 36:31

How do you at the same time unlearn? I think that’s a skill which you know, this is not talked about


Harsh Mariwala 36:39

Yeah, you need to share things you know, you can’t it’s I don’t know how to describe but it is something which you have to realize that okay, there’s something now the past and I can’t hold on to something which was irrelevant the past but it’s no more relevant today. So, I think it’s a judgmental I don’t I don’t have a process or I don’t have a way to tell your viewers to how to unlearn but it’s something which is judgmental, you can say that Okay, now this is something behind you. And now look at something else which is more relevant. Thank you


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 37:11

Thank you so much, sir. We are looking forward


Harsh Mariwala 37:12

Thank you, Siddhartha. wish you all the very best. Happy to be with you and wish all the viewers All the best. And if they want to join ascent, most welcome please look at the website and apply. And please, if you if you like what you heard, then please buy my book. By the end of the one month. Thank you.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 37:32

Yes, we’ll definitely post the link in the to the book, you know, like in the podcast so that listeners can see more details of your journey. Go through in depth right on your journey, the principles that you share of building a legendary company.


Harsh Mariwala 37:49

Thank you. Thank you, Siddhartha, wish you all the best.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 37:51

Thank you, sir.



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