COVID-19 Crisis Was an Important Leadership Lesson: Harsh Mariwala The founder and chairperson of Marico believes companies and organizations have realized that it pays to look at all stakeholders and not just shareholders or the key employees of the company

By Ashmita Bhogal

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Leaders realized the importance of all stakeholders of a company, as they are interconnected with each other. And if the company is doing something positive for the employees, it will motivate them and surely company will get better corporate results. Moreover, if the company provides better quality of products and services than its competitors, the business will get more and more number of satisfied customers, word-of-mouth and even repeat customers, which in turn add value to the business of the company.

Now, the companies and organizations have realized that it pays to look at all stakeholders and not just shareholders or the key employees of the company.

Speaking at Entrepreneur India's Tech and Innovation Summit 2021, Harsh Mariwala, founder and chairperson, Marico, illustrated the above-mentioned situation with an example of his own company. He said that when first wave of COVID-19 broke out in India, people were devastated with its impact. At that time Marico's CEO communicated with all the employees and their family members, and arranged different types of online classes for the wives and kids of the employees. And this ultimately played an important role in employee engagement as now the family members of the company also know that what the organization is going through and all these efforts done by the company has brought the family members closer to the company.

Moreover, the company also arranged doctors, ventilators and oxygen cylinders when in time of need. Apart from that, the CEO and head of the HR personally called infected persons and gave them assurance.

"The first wave as I said was more to do with fear of the unknown the second wave was more fear of losing somebody close to you. So our overall stimulus or our response to the second wave was different than the first as we had mastered the supply chain so it was easier for us to get back to the market," said Mariwala.

According to him, some leadership traits emerged during the pandemic.

Openness of the leaders: Trust of the leaders is a key factor in the business. Employees should know that the organization has been fair to them in terms of each and everything, even if it was a layoff decision. Transparency within the organization is the key factor as employees have the right to know what is going on within the organization and what are the upcoming projects.

Opportunities that came in with the pandemic: The shift of the companies towards e-commerce is a major breakthrough. In case of Marico, before the pandemic its e-commerce business was 3 per cent of the total turnover and now it has become 9 per cent. This underscores the huge shift towards e-commerce. Moreover, the switch towards online meetings and seminars has led people from all over the country to join it at the same time. These meetings have become less time taking as people now don't have to come from long distance and do these meetings.

Health again has taken a huge leap and Marico has launched some healthy foods, nutraceuticals, etc. All these things have helped in capitalizing opportunities. Moreover, environment and tech area have also provided people with new opportunities. As people are more inclined towards sustainability and anti-pollution products.

"The second wave in terms of business side was better as the business had already experienced the negatives in the first wave. Though there were gaps in case of oxygen and ventilator supplies, the nation has also learnt a lot about the supplies of oxygen ventilators and hospitalization. And because of the previous instances we have become far more experienced in terms of COVID-19 and that is why if the third wave comes, we would be far more equipped from all the possible angles compares to the first and second wave of the COVID-19," he said.

According to him, all the negative things that has happened during the pandemic can be balanced by positive things now.

Ashmita Bhogal

Junior writer

Student at Banasthali Vidyapith, Intern at Entrepreneur India.

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