February 22, 2020
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Harsh Mariwala, Marico

Innovation is one thing that’s constant with a diversifying Marico, helping it break new ground even as it competes neck-and-neck with Hindustan Lever.

Harsh Mariwala, Marico
Photograph by Soumik Kar
Harsh Mariwala, Marico
  • Marico products sell in 25 countries


Harsh Mariwala, the founder of homegrown consumer-­goods giant Marico that sells in 25 countries, has a business outlook that goes beyond the pop-and-mom-shop philosophy. His children are all independent entrepreneurs—a far cry from the stranglehold promoters like to maintain on family-­nurtured businesses. Mariwala himself has stepped down from overseeing day-to-day operations.

If Marico doesn’t quite ring a bell, its brands will surely do. Parachute, the coconut hair oil brand Indians swear by for bountiful locks minus the grimy feel. Or take Saffola, the edible oil brand that people trust with “good health”. Mariwala nurtures a secret love—of books. His Mumbai office has a library-sized collection. He is a keen reader.

Mariwala’s office chronicles his exceptional story. It has huge wall posters that self-narrate that tale. “1971, Bombay Oil Industries.” “Marico is born 2nd April 1990.” “India gets a non-sticky hair oil”. “Marico shifts headquarters to Bandra 1992.” (At 20, Mariwala, fresh out of Mumbai’s Sydenham College, joined Bombay Oil Industries Ltd, his family firm.)

Marico’s biggest achievement isn’t the profits or turnover or popularity. It’s breaking new ground despite competing neck-and-neck with multinationals (read Hindustan Lever). Innovation­—it’s an institutional mantra for Mariwala. He founded the Marico Innovation Foundation that funds social entrepreneurs. The 2003-established organisation, with the credo of creating a sustainable Indian “innovation ecosystem”, funds a bunch of IIT alumni to come up with affor­dable sanitary napkins for the poor.

For good many years, the average consumer entered the Marico world through the hair oil. Now, there’s every which way: from its personal care line Kaya to health consciousness cooking products.

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