Harsh Mariwala, Chairman, Marico, in an exclusive interaction with BW Businessworld’s Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Annurag Batra, talks about the new initiatives that Marico is coming up with in the post-pandemic period, particularly to excel on the virtual platform. Excerpts:
If you were to sum up what you have experienced in the last 16 months, how would you put it?
The last 16 months have been very unpredictable. The moment we began thinking things were coming back to normal, we were hit by a second wave of the pandemic and now there is talk about a third wave as well. Earlier, we felt the first quarter of April-June would be very good and then we were badly hit by the second wave. The whole virus is so unpredictable. I think in terms of running a business, you will have to be far more agile and work with a short-term plan rather than a long-term one. So, in these uncertain times, there are lots of opportunities coming up, there are new ways of doing things. As for the FMCG business, at Marico, we had a good track record. We have to identify opportunities for doing work in a new environment. The learnings are going to be sustained for all the time to come.
Going forward, what do you see happening in terms of consumer preferences, choices? Give us a glimpse of the upcoming trends?
The biggest shift is the digital shift — zoom calls, virtual meetings, e-commerce; we are not going to go back to the old ways of doing things. To me, that is the biggest trend, and organisations good at leveraging these digital technologies will do immensely well. Even the consumer is now used to ordering food online and it will continue to be so. Of course, they will also go to the shops. So this is physical and digital — ‘phygital’ is the way forward.
ESG parameters — environment, social and government — have become a big topic (of discussion) in boardrooms. Every company is talking about ESG and how it can be improved. I think it all depends on how organisations are reacting to the trends and making investments accordingly.
Give us a sense of your own organisation’s journey on ESG. This subject is dear to me. As a promoter and key shareholder, my job is not just to get income or dividends out of the company. The role of the organisation has changed to look at all the stakeholders. Because they are interlinked. So, you can’t cause environmental damage. If today, I have to go to a campus and recruit students, they are bound to ask me about ESG.
Stakeholders are putting a lot of pressure on organisations to adhere to ESG guidelines and improve ESG scores. Because of the pressure, there is huge momentum happening. And, it is a journey, not a destination.
What are the key things a business should focus on right now to get the backup and keep going?
A lot will depend on the kind of business you are in because different businesses are hit differently by Covid, and as they say, there is a K-shaped recovery and businesses like FMCG are doing extremely well.
What you do in a situation like this is a big challenge. We have to take care of our employees and present an authentic picture of what is happening in the business which is under a lot of stress. Also, this is a great opportunity to get into the consumer’s lives and look at it from a different angle.
So there are opportunities for you to overcome consumer-connect absence through these routes.
Originally published on 12th July, 2021 by Dr Annurag Batra