Harsh Mariwala on entrepreneurship and how he built Marico, a Fortune India 500 company

In the recent episode of 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Harsh Mariwala, Founder and Chairman of Marico, talks about his entrepreneurial journey and building Marico for over 30 years.
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There might not be many people who have not used or do not know about Saffola cooking oil, Nihar Natural hair products, Parachute coconut oil, and Livon hair serum, among others. 

Harsh Mariwala, Founder and Chairman of consumer product company Marico Ltd, a Fortune India 500 company that provides all these brands, explains that his journey began at the age of 20 when he started working at his family business

“I finished my college from Bombay, and at the age of 20, I joined the family business, which comprised of my father and three of my uncles. The office was located in the heart of commodity markets in Masjid Bandar. It was a typical family managed organisation…., and I started exploring different parts of the business,” he recalls.  

Harsh Mariwala, Founder and Chairman, Marico Limited [Image Credit: 100X Entrepreneur Podcast]

“We had a chemicals business, a spice extracts business, and we also had an edible oil business. During my exploration for one year, I visited all the factories and markets, and I realised that if I can convert the business of loose unbranded edible oils to a branded business, it will be far more sustainable and far more profitable. That is how I began the journey of distribution, network expansion, and brand building. So that was my starting point,” he says.

Harsh says that in the early 90s, he convinced his parents that consumer product business needs a separate kind of up culture and identity, and requested them to take the business as a different company.

Starting new journey with Marico

Harsh was 39-years-old when he began Marico. He explains that starting up Marico was not a financial separation from his family business, but a management separation.

“It was just a management separation, where the company got divided into three to four different subsidiaries, and each of my cousins took over one part of the business. But in terms of ownership, it is all together, owning the same percentage i.e., 25 percent, which considering the fact that my father had three brothers so totally four brothers. So, I also had a 25 percent shareholding,” he adds.

Harsh explains that having multiple family members might result in complications in management, but doesn’t mean it will not succeed. However, complications might come up because everyone might have different levels of ambition and way of thinking.

“Relationships are very complex - you are related at one stage, you are also managing together, you are also owing together. So separating all this especially in inter functional or intergenerational issues adds to the complexity. There is a 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,” he says.

He says that convincing his family and launching Marico separately was the most important decision in his life.

Today, Marico, which Harsh has been building for over 30 years now, has a market cap of over Rs 68,000 crore.

In this recent episode of 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Harsh Mariwala talks about his entrepreneurial journey and building Marico for over 30 years.

To know more, listen to the podcast here

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 and 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 and thought leaders 

Edited by Megha Reddy

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