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Aug 16, 2012, 06.30 PM IST
If one were to describe Harsh Mariwala’s story in numbers it would be – from 40 lakh in 1971 to 4,000 crore in 2012. His ambition now is to create thousands of Harsh Mariwalas through a new programme that he is launching under his favourite buzz phrase personal, social responsibility.
Q: Can you recall instances where you wish there was an ASCENT in your time?
A: As I said, if you have a burning desire to succeed, you try and find your ways to resolve them. So I would try much harder how to overcome, say how to go towards a board managed company or in the bad market how do you turn public? Or in our case, initially when we went public, we were being associated with commodity companies or valuations were very single digit valuations.
All those FMCG companies are at a multiple of 25-30 and we are at multiple of 10. So what do you need to do to improve your multiple? If you are constantly searching, and if you have the desire to work on that, this would have been a far better option but one tried much harder and one was able to get all the answers.
Q: You have considerably professionalized your business over a time but you are still Chairman and Managing Director. What would you advise entrepreneurs to come and become a part of your ASCENT programme in terms of how hands-on they need to stay and how hands-off they need to stay?
A: I think a lot will depend on what stage you are in.
Q: At this stage of Marico, which I would imagine is probably at its peak, you are still fully involved in executive functions both as Managing Director and Chairman. What is your advice to entrepreneurs in terms of how much they need to hold on in terms of control?
A: From doing things to getting things done to influencing things. So I am at this age influencing internally. I am not day-to-day managing the company, nothing comes to me for pricing decision or advertising decision. Even if I am out for 20 day in a month, I do not think I will get a single phone call from my office.
It's very much independently managed, not to say that I am not involved. I am fully involved. I know what exactly is happening but not to control things. My role is to add value to what we are doing and to be aware of what is happening outside, bring the outside in the organization, get the best practices, look at all the external stakeholders whether it's the government or whether it is the shareholders or the imagine building for the organization. I think it's more to do with influencing rather than getting things done.
Q: How would you look at Mahindra Rise?
A: Mahindra Rise is more in the corporate so there will be some rub-off image. Like our Marico Innovation Foundation, there is some rub-off image to Marico’s image. In this case separately, there is some benefit and I always believe that if you go with an open mind, you want to do something good for somebody else; somewhere you will get some benefit.
Q: I am not trying to understand if there is a benefit. What I am trying to understand is what is prompting organizations like yours and promoters like you or Mr. Mahindra to turn to this space because the processes maybe different but what the two of you are trying to achieve, you through either ASCENT or the Innovation Foundation or Mahindra through Rise are in some sense similar or parallel?
A: A lot depends on what is the internal belief; and the belief is to actually what I can add back? Why is innovation crucial for India if India has to be a super power? or why scaling up enterprises is very crucial again to India? So I think a lot of it is getting that satisfaction of doing something rather than getting a mileage for it.
Q: How will you measure the success of ASCENT because there are no commercial terms to measure success. What is it that you set out in terms of one year or two years goals that will help you understand whether you have succeeded with what you have set out to do?
A: I was just looking at the numbers and I am happy to inform that we have just crossed the 100 number, which was our target.
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