Harsh Mariwala
India
Harsh Mariwala
  • Founder and Chairman, Marico (Consumer Goods; Health; Beauty; Wellness)
Born Mumbai, India, 1953. B.Com, Sydenham College (1971)
“Entrepreneurs cannot take no for an answer. There are always alternatives to some limitations you have and you have to find ways to overcome those limitations. You can't say I can't do it.”

Summary

Harsh Mariwala is Founder and Chairman of Marico, a Fortune India 500 company, specializing in consumer products in health, beauty, and wellness. After graduating from Sydenham College in Mumbai in 1971, Mariwala joined Bombay Oil Industries, which traded in spice extracts, edible oils and chemicals, which his father had established in 1948. In 1975, Mariwala took the family company into branded consumer products, a departure from the former business to business model, and launched the Parachute coconut oil and Saffola refined oil brands, driving their growth through innovations in packaging, and despite the constrains the business faced in the era of tight government regulation before the 1990s. In 1990, Mariwala took the consumer products business out of Bombay Oil Industries, which he felt was highly constrained by sheer numbers of family in the top management, and founded a new company called Marico. Mariwala explains that he was able to internationalize successfully this new venture, taking his brands into 25 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and the Gulf, often using acquisition strategies, and benefitting from similarities in consumer behavior and distribution networks between India and the new markets. In this interview, Mariwala discusses how he recruited professional management, his experience with an IPO in 1996, Marcio’s flat organizational structure, and the corporate culture of uniform and shared understanding of values created through an environment of openness, empowerment, feedback, and trust. Mariwala concludes the interview with an account of his recent initiatives. In 2012, he founded the ASCENT Foundation, which is a learning platform for entrepreneurs to share innovative information in trust groups, and currently works with 500 entrepreneurs in Bombay. In 2014, Mariwala founded the Mariwala Health Initiative, which focuses on the importance of mental health throughout India.

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Harsh Mariwala is Founder and Chairman of Marico, a Fortune India 500 company, specializing in consumer products in health, beauty, and wellness. After graduating from Sydenham College in Mumbai in 1971, Mariwala joined Bombay Oil Industries, which traded in spice extracts, edible oils and chemicals, which his father had established in 1948. In 1975, Mariwala took the family company into branded consumer products, a departure from the former business to business model, and launched the Parachute coconut oil and Saffola refined oil brands, driving their growth through innovations in packaging, and despite the constrains the business faced in the era of tight government regulation before the 1990s. In 1990, Mariwala took the consumer products business out of Bombay Oil Industries, which he felt was highly constrained by sheer numbers of family in the top management, and founded a new company called Marico. Mariwala explains that he was able to internationalize successfully this new venture, taking his brands into 25 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and the Gulf, often using acquisition strategies, and benefitting from similarities in consumer behavior and distribution networks between India and the new markets. In this interview, Mariwala discusses how he recruited professional management, his experience with an IPO in 1996, Marcio’s flat organizational structure, and the corporate culture of uniform and shared understanding of values created through an environment of openness, empowerment, feedback, and trust. Mariwala concludes the interview with an account of his recent initiatives. In 2012, he founded the ASCENT Foundation, which is a learning platform for entrepreneurs to share innovative information in trust groups, and currently works with 500 entrepreneurs in Bombay. In 2014, Mariwala founded the Mariwala Health Initiative, which focuses on the importance of mental health throughout India.
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Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Harsh Mariwala, interviewed by Joseph B. Fuller, Mumbai, India, November 6, 2019, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School.