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Economy Needs To Pick Up; Jobs Will Happen: Harsh Mariwala

In a freewheeling conversation with BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha, Harsh Mariwala, Chairman, Marico talks about the culture of innovation, jobs, the economy and corporates endorsing political candidates

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

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Some corporates have endorsed candidates during the ongoing elections. Do you think it’s a healthy practice?
I don’t think it’s the corporates who have endorsed. They may be corporate chiefs, but what they have done is in their personal capacities.

Would you endorse a candidate?
Before pondering over such a question, I should know the candidate really well. That is the most important point.

How is the overall business climate?
The business climate is still subdued. We were expecting a better outlook but the economy is not picking up in terms of growth rates. Clearly, the numbers of economic growth have fallen. Sectors like real estate or auto sector (two-wheelers) which were doing well have also started to fall. This is a bit worrying because of the financial crisis. It is said that a lot of money is going into the mobile sector. I don’t know how far this is true.

How do you look at the ongoing elections?
I think stability is important because then at least the reforms will take place and the speed of decision making will increase. We have seen the years of UPA and NDA. All the governments have done something or other to keep the economy growing. However, the key is stability. Uncertainty should be avoided. If there is a coalition, then there could be a conflict of interest.
How do you evaluate some of the landmark economic decisions of the Modi government?
The Modi government has come out with GST as well as IBC. It’s also true that these reforms were earlier initiated by Manmohan Singh’s UPA government. The Digital India Scheme and Aadhaar, too, were initiated by the UPA. But they have been properly executed by the NDA government.

How was Marico impacted by issues like demonetisation and GST?
Both had an impact on the overall FMCG sector. The wholesale distribution got impacted a lot due to demonetisation. It had its own impact in terms of sales and numbers but GST relatively had a less negative impact. GST is a very good beginning and it is good for the economy. On demonetisation, it is still not clear whether it has been a good journey.

Why do you think we lack a culture of innovation?
I think a lot has to do with our society and our education system. We need to encourage people to think rather than to memorise. We also need an environment of freedom to experiment. There shouldn’t be any fear of failure because our society looks at failure negatively.
I think a combination of various government policies has enabled innovation. But I think there is a long way to go.

Why do you think our jobs are not happening?
The verdict is yet not clear. Ultimately, it boils down to the economic growth. If real estate, garments or exports are not doing well, this will have an impact on the jobs.


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