New Delhi: Businessman Harsh Mariwala, who is the founder of mentoring platform for entrepreneurs, ASCENT Foundation, kicked off the platform’s first virtual conclave Wednesday, which will focus on opportunities that have emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They say never waste a crisis and this is a big one,” said Mariwala, quoting former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, at the conclave.
Themed ‘Rebuilding with Grit’, ASCENT e-Conclave 2020 is the enterprise’s fifth such event, which aims to inspire, share and celebrate entrepreneurs in their journey of growth.
Mariwala, also the chairman of Marico and skincare brand Kaya, said he was inspired by a book called The Grit by Angela Duckworth, adding that grit and perseverance are the need of the hour during the pandemic.
The e-conclave will be held from 25-28 November and will feature sessions by economist Raghuram Rajan, Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, fashion designer Masaba Gupta, among others.
Reducing dependence on China
During the event’s inaugural session, Mariwala spoke about the opportunities for innovation caused by the pandemic like the rise of e-commerce and e-learning, rethinking supply chains dependent on China and improving business leadership.
Citing an example from his own company, Mariwala said Kaya Clinic has created a new vertical of e-consultation to directly engage with the customers. He said the company made 75 per cent of normal turnover for the July-September quarter and expects to reach 85-90 per cent in the next quarter.
“We’ve seen new geopolitical alignments happening… many organisations have realised that overdependence on one country is not safe,” said the 69-year-old billionaire.
He named Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia as countries who are now shifting gears of their supply chains, adding that he hopes the Indian government “comes out with far more aggressive policies” too.
Mariwala also said it “pays to be authentic”.
Business leaders must be frank when communicating the challenges they are facing with employees, investors and other stakeholders, he said. Leaders must exhibit care and empathy to not just employees but also their family members, he added.
Using his own company as an example, Mariwala said Marico provided online cooking classes, yoga and fitness events and meditation sessions for employees’ spouses, children and other family members in the first 3-4 months of the pandemic.
Scope for innovation, importance of self-discipline
Mariwala briefly spoke on how working from home and virtual meetings are cost-effective mechanisms that save both time and money.
With regard to areas of innovation, he said the alternate meat industry has potential as there is a big shift towards vegetarianism given that the pandemic “emerged out of wildlife in China”.
Mariwala further said robotics and advanced technology is a space to watch, with the emergence of touch-free shopping.
“All of us know we are in a storm, but we are all in different boats,” he said, explaining that some sectors in the Indian economy like FMCG and pharmaceuticals have fared well during the pandemic and others like hospitality have taken a blow.
Hopefully, India won’t go through a second wave, but leading self-disciplined lifestyles will be key, he added.