A Look At Marico’s Core Values – Pooja, TISS Mumbai

Every day, by the time I reach the office, a hum of industry has settled over the building. Heads are bent, fingers are flying at a frantic pace, the air reverberates with conversations and laughter. I am working in the Research and Development office (better known as ‘Technology’ here in Marico), and am assailed with nerdy jokes and solvent smells all day.

I am a fieldwork intern at Marico, the FMCG giant that has changed the way we look at oil. Say the words coconut oil, and the ubiquitous blue plastic bottles come to mind almost immediately. It is not without reason that Parachute is a household name – and so is Saffola. But excellence is just the Marico way.

Every Friday, I step from the world of industry into the world of academics, as I meet with my faculty to discuss my projects and my work. During one such discussion, the issue of organisation values cropped up. I was still wearing my i-card from Marico – the values are written on the lanyard. One by one, I started reading them out – boundarylessness, opportunity seeking, innovation, transparency and openness, customer centric, bias for action, global outlook, and excellence.

Does Marico live by these values, I wondered, or is it just corporate-ese. ‘Make a Difference’ – that’s the line written on the Marico website. I decided to look at Marico’s history to see if it has indeed adhered by the values it proposes.

Harsh Mariwala, the founder of Marico (it’s Mariwala and Company – where did you think the name comes from?) is a firm believer in the role of organisation culture as a competitive advantage. This is exemplified in the way Marico treats people who demonstrate these values – they are recognised through the Value Awards, and through the publishing of exemplary display of Values in an annual Values book.

I have spent almost two weeks in the organisation now, and every day I stumble upon some manifestation of these values around me, or in the stories that Marico employees recount. Openness was demonstrated when a new, open plan office was built, something virtually unheard of in the 90s in Indian companies. Boundarylessness in Marico is manifested through the job rotations that employees undergo. Lateral growth is highly appreciated in Marico. It is, in fact, one of the few companies where cross-functional assignments are the norm, not the exception.

Innovation is a staple to Marico. Years ago, they replaced the tin cans with round plastic bottles – a move which transformed the market for oil. It proved to be a huge cost saver, and Marico gained market share in the bargain. Consumer centricity is in the way the oil containers further evolved. Cold winters invariably freeze the coconut oil – a problem that was solved by manufacturing coconut oil containers which allowed one to scoop out this solidified oil during the winters. Saffola entered the breakfast foods category with oats – but unlike the market leaders at that time, these oats were different – they were savoury. Given the Indian love for all things spicy, the success of Masala oats was inevitable. Marico’s dedication to innovation comes to life in the ‘Marico Innovation Foundation’, a not-for profit that believes that Innovation can spur creation and sustenance of successful and enduring Indian brands.

These are just some of the examples of how Marico lives by its values. In the next two weeks, I look forward to immersing myself deeper into this unique culture, into this rare organisation which walks what it talks.

Notes:

Fieldwork is a unique practice in TISS, Mumbai. Every semester, the students work in organisations from different sectors to gain an industry perspective and put their theoretical knowledge into practice. You can find out more about it here – Fieldwork in TISS: The What, Why and Where.

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About the Author:

pooja-wanpal

Pooja Wanpal considers reading the sole aim of her life. She is obsessed with trekking, pani puri, and adores traveling. She is a freelance content writer, and has penned the novel, ‘Love and Lokpal’. She is currently studying Human Resource Management and Labour Relations at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is also a part of the InsideIIM Student Team 2016-17.

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