Firm before Family: Interview with Harsh Mariwala, Chairman, Marico

Firm before Family Interview with Harsh Mariwala, Chairman, Marico - Seniors Today Anniversary Issue

Up, close and personal with Harsh Mariwala, Chairman, Marico as he is set to launch his memoirs, Harsh Realities

There are few in Indian family-owned businesses who can match Harsh Mariwala and his principled stand on bringing in professional management, good corporate governance, organisation culture and sustainability. Innovation is the credo for Mariwala, who is Founder and Chairman of FMCG major Marico.

Mariwala began his career in 1971 with Bombay Oil Industries and set up Marico in 1990. The corporate has a footprint across 25 countries. He is also founder of India’s largest chain of dermatology-led clinics, Kaya., With a view to give back to society, he founded Ascent Foundation, a peer-learning entrepreneurial platform. He has set up Marico Innovation Foundation, Marico’s CSR Initiative that helps scale innovative ideas scale, the Mariwala Health Initiative that supports mental health and very recently,  AquaCentric, an aqua therapy chain of health facilities. 

In a freewheeling interview with Seniors Today, Harsh Mariwala speaks about the Marico story, entailing a management and financial separation from the family, his decision to let professional managers run the company. He also offers insights on his value system and speaks about his soon-to-be-released book, Harsh Realities.

Excerpts from the interview.

 

Q: Tell us what makes Harsh Mariwala excited about life in general? Your various passions?

A: Looking back at my journey, I have largely charted my own course in terms of the way I work and what I do. And that variety, learning new things and doing new things, the newer experience in reinventing myself, is what I find really exciting. So, from the time I started, when the business was really small, to what it is today, it’s come a long way. But I’ve undergone a lot of change myself. I didn’t have any clue what I was going to do in life, nor has anybody taught me anything. I did not have a coach or a mentor or a guide for most part. So everything has been on my own because it was a typically family-managed company where there were no professionals. When I entered the business as a commerce graduate, I was led to my father and he said, “You explore and decide what you want to do.” Since then, I’ve come a long way. 

About six years back, I stepped down as Managing Director, and I’m the chairman of the company. And as of today, what keeps me occupied, what keeps me engaged, what keeps me excited is a variety of new things I’ve done. One of them is starting AquaCentric. It was started with a leap of faith but unfortunately, because of Covid, we were hit badly. But the feedback we’re getting from our clients is amazing. We have clinical studies in terms of how they’ve benefited – those who have had partial paralysis, full paralysis, people who had serious issues with their knees, or ortho issues, because it is so easy to exercise in water. Your weight is one-tenth, one can exercise so easily without any pain. And if you exercise, if you keep yourself fit, then the recovery is much faster. 

I also started looking at giving something back to society in different ways. . And I have three different sets of initiatives on that front. As I said, I have started a new business in Aqua. Also, while I’m not involved in Marico’s day-to-day running, I guide the team on long-term strategy and work actively on board effectiveness. I also spend time on Kaya Skin Clinics. So, all in all, some on business, some on the social side, giving side. I have Marico Innovation Foundation, our CSR initiative, reporting to me, which fuels innovation. I have joined three external boards in addition to three in-company boards. I’m also on an advisory board of three private equity venture firms. My son has started an investment office, so I spend some time with him there. So, life is exciting. It’s new every day. 

Plus, I’m very, very passionate about fitness. I spend at least two hours exercising. Again, variety has to come in. I can’t do the same thing repeatedly. So, three times a week weights, once a week functional training, swimming every day, walking every day. I have now started aqua exercises, and there’s yoga and golf over weekends. 

 

Q: You mentioned that you’ve branched off from a family business, the family-owned Bombay Oil Mills…

A: Before I go into that, a message to your readers that I want to give is, I think you have to reinvent yourself over time. What I’m doing today is very different from what I was doing maybe 10 years back. I couldn’t have done all that if I had not shed my full-time role in Marico and Kaya. I didn’t have any clue on how I was going to keep myself engaged.. Just a leap of faith that things will work out. 

 

Q: Is there a mantra for Marico’s long-standing success? You do have some very successful brands. 

A: Yes, the montage which revolves around three pillars. The key is to identify a product portfolio where you have a right to win. It’s a highly competitive environment and we compete with very large and very capable players. They come with global experience in categories where they are strong. The key thing is to identify niches, where you have a right to win, where they are either not concentrating or they have not looked at that market. So, if I look at our portfolio of products, in almost 90-95% of our turnover, we are market leaders in that particular segment.

I’ll give you a simple example. We realised that in a segment like shampoos, it would be impossible to fight the big players with their spends on global R&D, their consumer understanding and strong brands. We then identified some niches in shampoos, which were small for them, where we could grow. Thus, we have a brand in Mediker, which is an anti-lice shampoo. But we have a 80% market share. In Vietnam, we acquired a brand of men’s shampoos. Again, we are the leader there. 

The key thing is to identify – we identified hair oils, which as a category has lost relevance in most parts of the world, except in SAARC and Middle East countries. And hair oiling is a very big habit in India. It is a very large market, larger than the shampoo market. So, we said that if these players, because they don’t have a global hair oil brand will not look at this segment at all, can we become market leaders in hair oils? We went very aggressive and we are currently the market leaders in hair oils. Therefore, in each and every segment we have a leadership brand, whether it’s Saffola which is a premium health refined edible oil, to Saffola foods like oats which are good for the heart, and then we have masala oats where we are the pioneers again. A combination of pioneering/ innovative products has led to success in the marketplace, but I think that first step is to identify where you will operate and win.

Pic C_ Harsh Mariwala with product range - early days
Harsh Mariwala with product range – early days

 

Q: But you also entered a segment like honey, which has been there for a while. 

A: Yes, we entered the segment because we saw that there was an opportunity for us to create some disruption.

 

Q: Sugarfree..

A: Honeys are supposed to be without sugar addition. But we knew that many of the other brands were not pure honey. We wanted to have that pure honey story. It so happened that the whole thing exploded, because the Centre for Science and Environment had a study where they found that Saffola and another small brand are the only honeys without sugar, and I think that gave us good traction. Saffola as a brand is known for health. So, honey has been doing well. I believe we should be able to achieve Rs 100 crores sales by next year. And would have at least 10-15 per cent marketshare.

 

Q: Would you say that health is a critical component that you are looking at in everything you do?

A: Health is getting traction post-pandemic and growing much faster. And we have invested heavily into healthy foods in the recent past, which is our new growth engine. In the past, we had three growth engines – coconut oil, refined edible oils, value-added hair oils.. Healthy foods have taken off now through four different offerings. We have plain oats and masala oats, we have honey, and we have Saffola protein which we have launched in the East. We also have launched Oodles which is our answer to noodles, but healthy ones made out of oats, and not in strands but in small rings. So we see that through these four offerings, we should be able to reach a Rs 1000 crore turnover in the next two years. 

 

Q: The pandemic has thrown up various questions about the Indian society’s focus on healthcare. Given that it’s an area that you are passionate about and engaged in as a business, is there something that you would like to see happening on the healthcare front in India?

A: Well, we are going to launch some more health products, in foods, but I can’t share about new product initiatives at this stage. Our protein, honey and Oodles have been launched in one year and we want to build a critical mass with some other healthy food products in the next one or two years. We will launch these under Saffola to make foods portfolio much bigger. 

 

Q: Also, in terms of public health is there something that you are looking at doing? What is your personal view?

A: On the personal side, I support mental health in a very big way. I think we must be the largest grant providers in the area of mental health in India, and we are supporting 26 mental health organisations. One of them being in Mumbai, the iCALL, which employs about 20 full-time individuals who help free of cost any issue anybody’s facing, either through phone call, or through email. There are many organisations which are doing mental health work by training individuals in slums, in poor localities, and in villages.

 

Q: Is there any particular reason why mental health?

A: We started supporting mental health six years back. I identified the huge price the country is paying, the world is paying on this critical health issue globally. And it’s a price all are paying because people are fighting depression, they’re not able to improve productivity, in the worst cases there is suicide, anxiety attacks. It’s a very big issue. And I think the biggest challenge is to perceive it as a disease. There is a huge reluctance to talk to anybody else. If I have a health issue, I would go to the doctor, I’ll tell my family, I’ll tell my friends I’m not well. What if I have a mental health issue? I’ll be very cautious, I can’t tell people I’m going through depression, because what will people think of me?

 

Q: But it’s aligned with your existing business? 

A: No, nothing to do with my business.

 

Q: It’s not about the heart, where you have Saffola…

A: It is more to do with a passion which my daughter has. She came to me and said, “We can do something pioneering in this.” And we have a huge way to go on that, I can see. She is now going to speak to BBC and they are going to shoot a series on Mariwala Health Initiative (MHI) next month. 

Where my giving initiatives are concerned, I am not the kind of person who will start a school or a hospital. . It’s got more to do with softer aspects and playing a catalytic role.. On the health front, we have a Saffola Healthy Heart Foundation where we do a lot of work giving advice to Saffola users and non-users. Things like leading the right lifestyle, customised diets. If you are a South Indian, I can’t give you a North Indian diet, so you can actually consult the dietitian and tell them what type of food you wish to eat and they’ll help you fine-tune it. It has to fit into your lifestyle ; you cannot just have a diet for one or two months as that is not sustainable. Your lifestyle has to change. So we are trying to change the lifestyle by bringing awareness of the need for exercising, having the right habits, having the right food. And I believe that if all Indians lead a far more disciplined life, there will be fewer obesity, diabetes or cardio issues, and our need for hospitalisation itself will go down dramatically. I think our endeavour is to actually educate people in these areas, whether it’s mental health, or right lifestyle habits.

 

Q: And there’s a big connect with mental health and lifestyle. 

A: Yeah, but these are done completely separately. Saffola’s Heart Foundation has started 20 years back. We do lots of things – on World Heart Day we have done camps, we do cholesterol check-ups, etc.

 

Q: Good governance is another area that you said you feel very strongly about.

A: Yes, and in fact, Crisil recently came out with an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance Support) study, and among the FMCG companies, we are the top in terms of ranking on ESG. High scorers are mainly banks and financial institutions because they don’t have any factories so they don’t emit any waste into the system, and and hence have very high scores on environment. 

 

Q: What’s your view on governance levels in corporate India? 

A: A long way to go. It’s evolving. Over a period of time, it will improve because it’s getting demanded by all the stakeholders and that’s the most positive side to it. No amount of laws will make the change that stakeholders can, starting from your own shareholders, foreign institutions, investors and your own employees. The first thing youngsters who go to campuses will ask is: what is the governance? If you’re selecting a new member to the board of directors, they all ask what is the governance and how good is the governance? Because of this, governance scores are improving, but if you ask me to give an overall corporate governance score in India, I would say four on a scale of 10.

 

Q: Just 4-5 on 10?

A: It’s a long way to go. I’m sorry to say this but I think the problem lies with most promoters. They think that the company is theirs. If you’re running a public company, you may be a majority shareholder, you are not the owner of the company. You may have 60 per cent and the balance 40 per cent is with others; you can’t say this is my own company. And because of that mindset, I will have related party transactions, I will ensure that my son succeeds after me – that’s not right.

 

Q: Which means you’re obviously in the minority right?

A: You are in the system, you have to be aware that it is not your own company, but most promoters say this is my own company. It’s wrong. If it is a completely private limited company I understand, no issue at all.

 

Q: From being a family run group to one run by professionals, how has the transition been?

A: It was tough. When the decision happened about five or six years back, it was very tough from different angles because I was involved full-time. So anxieties about what will I do if I’m not a part of the company, to how will I take care of the expectations of my children, my family it has been tough but it has been worth it.

I think we were one of the pioneers in this space. Some companies have done it, but under different circumstances. Companies like Dabur and Pidilite have done it but because there are multiple family members involved in the management and then there would be a conflict who should be the leader. In my case, I was the only person from the family, there’s nobody else. So it had to be done voluntarily. There are no other pressures like other family members, which made it happen. I mean, the current MD came to me and he’s been with me for the last 15 years. So he came to me saying that I like working for you, but if you are going to be treating this like a typically family-managed company, that means I will not have any chance of becoming the head of the company and my dream, my ambition is to do that. So, you tell me if you do not then I am getting some offers, I will leave.

I’m glad he talked to me, and then I put it to the Board. I have a completely professional board. We discussed and decided it’s better that we retain him, it’s better that I exit my full-time wife, the company. I will be involved but I will not be managing it on a day-to-day basis. I will be involved in certain decisions relating to people. If there are some acquisitions, I will get involved, I will have a review meeting with the team, but on day-to-day basis, nothing will come to me for decision-making.

 

Pic B_ Early days
Discussing ins and outs with colleagues in the early days

 

Q: But aren’t the personal and professional aspirations of members of your family also a factor? For instance, you mentioned about your son and your investment office and all that. Doesn’t the next generation have aspirations to helm your business, as in other business families?

A: It’s tricky. I always use this thumbrule that what is good for the organisation should come first in any decision. If there is a conflict between the organisation’s interest and say the family’s or employee interest, I think the organisation’s interest should come first. For example, if there is a very good employee who has done extremely well for the first 10 years, and then, he starts becoming less effective. The tendency in many companies is to retain him, we are here to be loyal to him. I have a different viewpoint: If he is not good for the company, he should be asked to go. Because if you’re a weak link in your company, then it rubs off on the other capable performers. And others will say it’s not fair, you’re tolerating some non-performers, we are performing. So it’s better to have very good performers all the time. 

 

Q: So, for the sake of argument, would there be a situation where your son could also take over?

A: There are no hard rules. If he wants to do it, then the Board decides this, it’s not my decision. The Board is professional, it’s independent. They decide on merit who is the best person to lead the company because, if the company does well because the best person is leading, tell me who will benefit the most? As a majority shareholder, I will benefit the most.

 

Q: In one of the photographs we have published, you’re seeing reading The Game-Changer by former P&G boss AG Lafley and celebrated consultant Ram Charan. How much of a gamechanger would you consider yourself?

A: I have been ahead of the times in a few areas. I don’t know whether you’ve read the book, Blue Ocean Strategy. It talks about identifying spaces where you have the right to win. And I had done all that when I read that book, it just reconfirmed that what I was doing was on the right track. A lot of people criticised me for going to niches, but I chose those niches, it was easier for me to succeed. So it just showed me that that whole portfolio choice of selecting the Blue Ocean was right. 

As for gamechanging, I can say that some of the trends which have happened in the management circles or corporate world, I have done it much, much earlier. I’ll give you two or three examples. One was the portfolio choice and Blue Ocean spaces. Then there’s this whole thrust on culture-building, I think I have spent an enormous amount of energy in building the culture of the organisation. Nobody else in the early 90s, was looking at culture. Now everybody talks of culture and saying culture eating strategy for breakfast, and whatnot, but I did it much, much earlier. 

The third is the purpose of the organisation. We started on the purpose of the organisation journey almost 10 years back, where we said that we have to look at all the stakeholders, and not just shareholders, as the organisation exists for all the stakeholders. When I say stakeholders, it includes your own employees, shareholders, customers, society and associates, because all of them are interlinked. If I do something good for my employees, they will operate at a peak, and they will give out their best and that will again benefit the other stakeholders. So if they do well, the company does well, the share price will go up, I can do an IPO, I can dilute, I can make acquisitions. All of them are interconnected. We have a purpose statement, which talks about making a difference. And make a difference to whoever you interact with, be it at a personal level or at an organisation level. So we send our ad agencies to our own training programmes for six days at our own cost. We go to our vendors’ premises, give them suggestions for improving productivity. A lot of things which are not expected of you to do, we do it and they realise: “Oh my god, nobody else is doing this, no other corporate.” So their motivation, when you do something extra, just increases dramatically and they give their best. 

 

Q: And is that shared by your teams? 

A: Yes. We do a lot of work in the area of farming. Copra is our largest selling product. We work with farmers in Tamil Nadu and we have taken many steps to ensure that there are no middlemen. Earlier there used to be four or five layers of middlemen before it came to us and each of them would have their own margin. Now, we are buying directly from farmers. We have collection centres; we also buy at our factory gate. And now we have started working with farmers to improve their productivity. More than 50,000 farmers are enrolled with us, and because of better farming practices their productivity has gone up by 15 per cent. And converted into value it means about Rs 200 crore per year, every year.

 

Pic D_ Copra drying yard
The drying yard for copra, the largest selling product

 

Q: What about sustainability, what does it mean to you?

A: It’s crucial. One is, sustainability in terms of our own factories, whether it is the water effluent or the kind of fuel used and what emissions are happening. In many locations, we have solar energy and we will be emission neutral also. The bigger one is plastics, because we use a lot of plastics 95 per cent of plastic bottles we use are either recycled or reused. And within the next three years, we want to ensure this with 100 per cent of plastics and we stopped using plastics which cannot be reused or recycled.

 

Q: It’s expensive to be sustainable… doesn’t come cheap.

A: No, actually it is not. Many think it’s very expensive. But actually, the paybacks are good. And there is a strong rub-off on your image also. I don’t think it’s a cost issue. 

 

Q: In a country like India, does image really matter?

A: Like I said earlier, if you want to be a good corporate citizen, if you want to attract good talent, good board, good shareholders, it’s very crucial. These days customers are also demanding more and more of sustainable brands, and this is going to increase the demand from them. I don’t want to hear people saying that you’re using plastic and causing so much environmental damage. Of course we’re using a lot of plastics but I think with recyclable plastics we can reduce the negative impact of plastics.

 

Q: And what do you think corporate India can do in this respect? 

A: I think they have to take it very seriously. You have to have full-time people looking after sustainability. They have to work at all the factories, and identify projects, track them, get the organisation to invest and it has to start from the top. The organisation’s ESG agenda now gets discussed today by all the boards.

 

Q: You mentioned about organisational culture, in what way has it really helped you in business?

A: Good question. I think any culture has to be tailormade to the kind of business you are in, and it has to be a source of competitive advantage. It cannot be a standalone culture which is good but is not helping the business. There has to be a strong fit between the organisational strategy and the organisation culture. Let me just give you an example: for a place like AquaCentric, safety is very important. Safety is crucial, in terms of safety and hygiene. People should come here and feel that, it’s a safe place for me to come. So that means starting from the way we build the place to the people we recruit and train.

 

Pic F_ Cardio work at AquaCentric
Cardio workout at AquaCentric

 

Coming specifically to Marico, there’s a big spike in our sales whenever innovation succeeded. I was very clear that I wanted to create an organisation which was innovative on a perpetual basis, not just one innovation and stop. So how do you build an innovative culture in an organisation, is a big challenge. How does innovation happen? You need to have a very diverse set of people first, because diversity brings in innovation, it brings in different thoughts. I’m not talking about just gender diversity, I’m talking about diversity, whether it’s education diversity, or geographical diversity, including talent from outside India as they come from different backgrounds, and they have a different way of thinking.. But merely having diversity is not enough, you need to combine diversity in a culture which is very open. 

Pic E_ Harsh Mariwala at a Marico Innovation Foundation event
Harsh Mariwala at a Marico Innovation Foundation event

Openness is another pillar of a culture where people should not be scared to open up. If I want to talk to somebody three levels below me, I don’t have to talk to his/ her boss. Everybody calls each other by first name. And when you combine openness with trust, dialogues happen. Innovations are not happening just in R&D labs, innovations happen because you get ideas, and you want to explore with someone else. Then the idea develops and then you prototype an experiment and if it is successful, you scale it up. You encourage people to innovate and prototype and experiment. People know that when I meet them, I’ll ask them a question on innovation. So there is a certain expectation which is set in. And we have Innovation Awards in the organisation. All the innovations are celebrated at our annual event, which is a physical event conducted at all our locations. 

We have innovation facilitators, hold creativity workshops and a flat organisational structure also helps If somebody fails, and if I punish the person, people will stop taking risks. You want your employees to take risks. You encourage risk-taking by prototyping experimentation, and you’re not going to succeed every time, but whenever you succeed, the impact of that will be huge on your business. 

Similarly, when Marico was founded, it was perceived as a family-managed organisation. I made it very clear that family influence will not work in Marico. If you ask me to employ a friend or relative, I will say okay, please evaluate the person. If s/he’s good, you can hire, but don’t involve me. My role ends there and everybody is very clear. Whether it’s selecting a vendor or an employee, everything goes on merits. Merit goes hand in hand again with compliance and governance. So, you have to have very high standards of governance in the organisation to drive meritocracy.

 

Q: Tell us more about the book …

A: When I stepped down, one question was, what would I do? Before that whenever I would speak at events, I’d have people come to me saying, why don’t you write a book? So the triggers were already there in my mind. There is some pull for my story. That’s how I started writing. But I went through a huge learning curve. I’m not a good writer. I can speak, but I can’t write. I was frustrated, wanted to give up the whole project, then somebody said why don’t you ask Ram Charan to co-author the book? So, Ram Charan is now co-author with me. The story is mine. It is in a story format. It’s easy reading. But he gives an insight at the end of each chapter, about what is the learning for the reader. That’s the format of the book. It starts with my own history from the time I started to when I stepped down. And it’s targeted towards entrepreneurs, followed by professionals, followed by students, but it can appeal to anybody and even housewives. I’ve sent it to a few friends who have liked it, because it is in a story format. 

 

Q: It says this is a story of grit, compassion and growth. 

A: Yes, and a lot of failures. 

 

Q: And transparency and innovation. 

A: I made some wrong choices in terms of working with three or four other authors initially. Their attempts were extremely weak and insipid. When I first thought of penning my story, my children insisted there could be none better than my wife to author it. I pressured my wife into writing for me. After initial resistance, she agreed. That we were in the throes of Covid enabled me to spend long hours with her, narrating, discussing, allowing her to plot the unfolding of events and flow of the book. Often, I would be impatient at the time she took to refer to the Thesaurus or ponder over, and incorporate details from other referrals including dialogues with Prof. Ram Charan. Not realizing how difficult it would be for someone who had never written a book. However, ultimately, I saw that her need for detailing added huge value and converted what would otherwise have been yet another cut and dried career driven book into a far more humane, emotive, interesting narrative.

 

Q: Most of our readers are senior citizens who, like you, have been there done that. Is there a word of advice for them? 

A: I think you need to reinvent yourself. You have to take some risk and you have to identify your strengths and areas which will keep you occupied, because you can’t lead a completely purposeless life. So the thing is to reinvent yourself and identify your strengths based on which you can experiment. You will go through a learning curve, fine tune and make changes every time you will not succeed. However, in your interest, you have to keep yourself mentally occupied. I love playing golf. But I can’t play golf every day. 

 

Q: Harsh Realities is the title of the book. Obviously, it’s a play on your first name. But what was the harshest reality that you faced/ experienced in your life and how did you win the challenge that it posed?

A: Among the difficult moments I faced in my life, I would say one is moving from Bombay Oil to Marico. It took me three years to convince family. It was not a financial separation but a management separation because Bombay Oil had different businesses and I was getting stifled in the organisation because of so many family members, not able to attract talent, lack of capital allocation policy. So it took three years, and I got all my cousins on board, and we had to convince my father and uncles. So to me, looking back, that has been the most important decision. If I had not done that, I would have been struggling, managing family battles. 

We had a battle with [Hindustan Uni]Lever, when they entered our segment and we decided to take them on. How we took them on and then ultimately how we bought their brand, was another area.

Finally, when I stepped down from being MD and my adjusting to the new reality which, looking back, has been very good.

 

Q: Some top Indian homegrown entrepreneurs and business leaders like Ramesh Chauhan etc. have decided to opt out of the race and sell out to multinationals. Is that something that you may consider?

A: No way. I am a very strong believer in perpetuity. Yes, there are entrepreneurs who are hunters. They’ll build something, sell it, hunt something else. And there are farmers, perpetual farmers who would want their company to continue, even if they are not there. It is like Procter & Gamble. It was started by an individual, but now it’s continuing on its own steam. And that’s where I strongly believe that the company should go, even if I’m not there tomorrow. I have built mechanisms through the Board, in terms of the organisation culture, purpose, strategy, and I think the Board will play a very important role going forward. It will be an independent board, where if tomorrow after a few years, if I’m not there, the company will continue. And the brands are very strong. I am quite sure that it’s there, for perpetuity.

 

Pic A_ Marico range of products
Marico range of products

 

Q: Through your journey, three values that you have seen personally that have held you through to where you are today?

A: One is to have the right set of principles, which includes integrity. I think it’s very important, because that’s how you build a certain image of yourself. And image is very important, looking at it if you want long-term success. You don’t want somebody to say, Oh, this guy’s a useless guy. Whether it’s, fairness, integrity, compliance, governance, all that fits into that. 

The other is openness and trust. I’m quite open in terms of listening to others. People still call me by my first name. If I’m not willing to listen to you, then people will just shut up. How am I accepting that feedback? If I say, no, you’re advise is useless, then you will stop giving me feedback. But if I say thank you for giving me feedback I’m encouraging you to give feedback. 

 

Q: Is there something that you feel a little edgy about sometimes, something that you feel nervous about?

A: Sometimes it’s happened, you know, some wrong decisions you take, and these are people-related decisions and it’s very difficult to judge a person in an interview and then, what do you do? I have made mistakes. I’ve asked senior people to go, but it hurts that I made a mistake and they are also paying a price for it.

 

Q: As you look back, is there something that you would have been done differently if you had the opportunity to turn the clock back?

A: I can’t say I didn’t make any mistakes. I made many mistakes. One way of looking at it is, could I have avoided those mistakes, and I could have grown much faster. But I don’t have any regrets. I learnt always. Any failure should have some learning. And I think if you are scared of failures or setbacks, then you will not progress in life. So, it’s a matter of taking a risk and i I went through a learning curve. My belief is that every person goes through setbacks. And if you have that grit, which is a combination of passion and perseverance and determination, then you will overcome any setback and you will not give up. 

The only thing I can say is, I operate from a very high degree of trust. So some people have taken advantage of that. And that has led to a bad taste in my mouth. But at the same time, when I’ve trusted people, I’ve been able to disengage myself so there has been a lot of positive side also of trusting. Sometimes one has to be a little bit more cautious and more deliberative in trusting people.

 

[updated July 16, 2021]

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