Marico The Giant Startup
An original Indian startup that soon became an FMCG behemoth, both in India and abroad, Marico is India’s leading consumer goods company providing consumer products and services in the areas of health, beauty, and wellness.
Marico touches the lives of one out of every three Indians through its diverse portfolio of various brands such as Saffola, Parachute, Hair & Care, Livon, Nihar Naturals, Set Wet Studio X, Mediker, and many more.
Have you ever wondered what it is like to work for an FMCG behemoth like Marico? What is the mantra that drives the organization in work?
Watch Kunal Bhardwaj, Group Product Head, Foods at Marico, on what has been the gamechanger for the company that gave us these iconic brands. He takes you through how the culture of entrepreneurship, employee empowerment, and taking risks is at the core of the DNA that drives the organization.
There are various factors that set Marico apart, and some of them are as follows -
1.Flat structure and open culture
“Think like a CEO, act like a CEO” is the mantra for everyone at Marico.
In the world of start-ups where speed and result-orientation are of paramount importance, it is refreshing to see a giant FMCG corporation encouraging this spirit.
Marico sets the benchmark by perhaps being the only company with a flat structure and an open culture. Leadership for them is an action and not a position!
In this candid conversation, Kunal spoke about Marico’s role in his career and what made him stick to the company for almost a decade.
The rate of converting the interview process is expected to be somewhere between a very healthy 1 in 5, to something that will give the HR some sweat: 1 in 10. Let us take a middle lane 1 in 7 for our guesstimate.
“What Marico gave me was a sense of empowerment, and that stems from the fact that the founder himself was an entrepreneur. He set up Marico as an organization that obviously now is an FMCG behemoth. So the culture of entrepreneurship, empowerment, and taking risks is still at the core of DNA that drives this organization.”
2. Quick decision-making and empowering passionate employees
Kunal mentions that the company is very passionate about its employees (or rather members). He iterates that at Marico, there are no employees but only members, which is the same for their products as well. He mentions that Marico’s strength lies in quick decision-making, which other organizations lack because the rules under the layers can overpower employees from making the right decisions.
3. No Top-Down Approach
Many organizations follow a top-down strategy where the organization at the top makes the decisions and executes them. But according to Kunal, for Marico, it was the other way around, where employees make their strategy and execute it well. That’s how in terms of employee empowerment and being able to take up decisions, they let employees go ahead with it and make their own vital judgments. Marico believes in being in charge and giving responsibilities from very early on, and the way they back their employees pan India is what made them a true success.
Acquisition of Paras - A game-changing experience
Marico had acquired part of the Paras portfolio (Set Wet and Livon) that Reckitt had acquired in its entirety. For Marico, it was their most significant acquisition.
Kunal mentions that he was asked to lead the acquisition from its initial days and was asked to take care of the transition of the merger into the sales system. Typically acquisition as big as that would not be given to people who are not very senior in rank. But, he considers himself lucky to have gotten the role of an ASM and a marketing manager for this portfolio when Marico had acquired it.
He mentions that it was challenging at first as here we were not talking about one brand or two, but literally, 24 SKUs being started at the same time. He felt that it gave him enormous satisfaction as a professional to be able to carve out a strategy for brands that weren’t selling and seamlessly merging them into Marico’s operations. These were entirely new categories, very competitive in nature, and yet the kind of freedom that Marico gave him during that time, he couldn't have asked for more. He was in charge of the entire portfolio and had to devise plans for strategy, sales, promotions, financials, business plans, and supply chain altogether. He describes it as a fantastic experience and considers himself lucky to be able to do that work so early in his career. It really helped him in his perspectives whenever he looks at work now.
What happens if the risk doesn’t pay off
Kunal mentions that failure will always be a part of life and that learning from the previous failure actually helps in making it a much better model. But again, as long as the person was in control and was able to identify the issues, he learned something from them and was able to make it better in some other scenarios. So even in cases where a couple of ideas did not work, Marico never stopped pursuing it and allowed somebody to come up with a better way of doing it.
And that kind of a knowledge bank, especially from the people’s experience, really helps. He iterates that that's what gives someone the confidence to be able to go ahead and say, “Okay, let me try it once. If I fail, it's not the end of the world.”