The Making of Marico & From Doing Things to Getting Things Done: The Journey Of Harsh Mariwala Harsh Mariwala, chairman, Marico, shares insight into his success, the role of failures and the importance of change for entrepreneurs and looking at businesses from an opportunistic lens

By Shrabona Ghosh

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For any Indian family, Coconut oil is a form of nostalgia – from reminiscing good old days to embracing adulthood – it is one of the most iconic household items. The journey behind the creation of one such quintessential item revolves around toil, labor, love and the zeal of an entrepreneur: Harsh Mariwala, founder and chairman, Marico.

One of the biggest innovations made by Mariwala in the initial years was to convert the entire coconut oil market from tin to plastic. But, was it easy? "Difficult!" he quipped. "There was a lot of resistance to plastics from the retailer. We had to design a bottle, which was difficult for the rats to get a grip and that's how we developed the round bottle. In spite of all the resistance, we were able to succeed and we had multiple innovations in the area of packaging which improved our market share from 10-15 per cent to 50 per cent."

Mariwala adheres to creating a culture of innovation and doesn't believe that it happens by chance! The brand has been continuing the legacy since 1990! He started off at the age of 20 and from then to today, the brand has become a household name. "From interacting with the distributors to recruiting talent at my organization, I have learnt from my mistakes. The formation of Marico gave me an opportunity to play a larger role, from doing things to getting things done, the roles shifted."

Apart from innovation, Mariwala emphasizes on the need of right talent as he feels it is imperative for the growth of any company. "Talent is not like purchasing, it's like marketing. One has to create the right employee value proposition, which will attract talent. You have to leverage your current employees and your past employees to create the right image. Ultimately, it's all about enjoying work in the organization."

When we talk about business these days, inflation can never go unnoticed. When asked about the Indian economy settling in the new normal, he said, "Currently the Indian economy is showing mixed signals. Some sectors are under stress, overall, India is well placed and relatively in a better place because of our macroeconomics and we are in a position to make an impact."

The toughest competitor of a legacy brand is perhaps the brand itself. Amid fierce competition in the market, the key challenge is to stay ahead of the curve and what other than innovation can fuel this growth? For a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company such as Marico, adapting to the emerging trends such as digitization, premiumization, acquisition are the secret to its success. Recently, Marico included True Elements, Just Herbs and Beardo to its portfolio.

While, it may be fancy to look at how startups and corporate work hand in hand, the reality is more than what just meets the eye. Corporates and startups usually have a different operating style. "D2C brands are different compared to the traditional FMCG business. One has to realize that these brands have arrived on the scene in the last two to three years and they are far more agile, work on communities, have limited budgets and are very entrepreneurial. We have the D2C brands housed in a different location because the skills required to manage those are very different."

"Businesses are all about innovations and one should look at change from an opportunistic lens," he said. This year's ASCENT Conclave's theme is also about thriving on change. Sharing his words of wisdom for the startup ecosystem, he said, "If you have to succeed in the marketplace, you have to offer something innovative or something which is pioneering or depending on the kind of business you are in, you need to identify what will create that differentiation in the marketplace. If you're in the service business, you can have some different types of service standards. Identify what is a critical differentiation you are bringing to the table."

Shrabona Ghosh


A journalist with a cosmopolitan mindset. I lead a project called 'Corporate Innovations' wherein I cover corporates across verticals and try to tell stories on innovations. Apart from this, I write industry pieces on FMCGs, auto, aviation, 5G and defense. 

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