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Corporate Mar 29, 2012

Marico’s Mariwala to launch project for entrepreneurs

By Sourav Majumdar

Having turned the Rs 4000 crore Marico Ltd from an old-world coconut oil company to a fast-moving consumer goods major with marquee brands, 60-year-old industrialist Harsh Mariwala is now embarking on an ambitious project to do his bit for the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Mariwala is set to launch a mega mentoring project which will help entrepreneurs who already have proven business models to scale up and reach the next level.

While Mariwala's project will initially start with 100 entrepreneurs, eventually he wants to take the number up to 10,000.

Harsh Mariwala. Screengrab/forbesIndia

In an exclusive interview to Entrepreneur magazine, Mariwala, whose Marico recently bought out the personal care brands of Paras Pharmaceutical from Reckitt Benckiser to add to the portfolio, said the mentoring initiative, where he will help groom hundreds of entrepreneurs to scale their businesses was his personal social responsibility (PSR), as opposed to Marico's corporate social responsibility.

The mentoring initiative will draw on the peer learning concept, where entrepreneurs will be selected carefully, and groups or round tables created where they can learn from each other. Experts and associates drawn from various disciplines will also guide these entrepreneurs through various issues as they go along.

Mariwala, who is active in the entrepreneurship and innovation circuit, has been getting several requests from entrepreneurs for mentoring. However, he said the idea behind his initiative was to make a larger impact.

"I thought a larger initiative would have a much greater impact than individual mentoring sessions. That is why I decided on this model," said Mariwala. While there are other mentoring initiatives for startups, Mariwala's project will focus on helping those who already have running businesses to scale up.

The roundtables in the project will be in existence for about four to five years but can also continue for longer, depending on the members' requirements, Mariwala said.

Mariwala himself has had first-hand experience of scaling up a business, from a Rs 100 crore one in the early 90s to Rs 4,000 crore today. Today, Marico has brands like Parachute, Nihar (which it acquired after a bruising battle with Hindustan Unilever), Saffola, Mediker, among several others, and the Kaya range of beauty products and spas.

Keenly focused on innovation, Mariwala was a pioneer in moving away from tin cans for edible oils to HDPE packs through Parachute, its flagship brand.

by Sourav Majumdar

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