ASCENT Foundation founder Harsh Mariwala: Determined ambition to grow draws us to work with young entrepreneurs

From being a successful entrepreneur to a mentor to several start-ups, Harsh Mariwala has been donning many hats. The founder and chairman of Marico is excited about working with young talents. Mariwala is also the founder of ASCENT Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation to create peer-to-peer platform for high-potential, growth-stage entrepreneurs. In an interview with Free Press Journal, Mariwala shares his plans for ASCENT Foundation.

Edited Excerpt:

How do you manage to keep the element of  interest alive in ASCENT Foundation’s Conclave?

After much calibration, the ASCENT team and I realised that there are several business areas that are pertinent to an entrepreneur. For some, funding may be a concern area, for another talent management or scaling-up or managing dynamics of family business. To address all these areas systemically we formed a governing council – a select team of ASCENT members who help us make decisions based on the needs and requirements of other members.

With the help of the governing council, we are able to identify some burning issues that entrepreneurs face and we get industry experts on these topics to come and share their insights to these areas. One way is through our signature event that is held annually which is the ASCENT Conclave. The conclave allows entrepreneurs to meet business leaders who share their entrepreneurial journey and learn from their experiences.

When you work with ASCENT Foundation, do you feel like working with a start-up entity or a  diversification as an entrepreneur? How is everything this time around as an entrepreneur engaging in such a large activity?

I like to work with anyone who has a strong desire to pioneer and has the right to win. What I mean by right to win is, is the entrepreneur able to create a strong differentiating factor that could propel his business growth? This factor could be anything  from adopting a different approach, to an innovation to a unique way in delegation etc. What matters to me the most is how the entrepreneur is able to generate value.

Coming to how things have changed, although the approach to running a business remains the same. Today entrepreneurs have access to newer tools, resources and technological disruptions that can help augment their business and spur growth. Also, businesses have gotten a lot more dynamic and hence the entrepreneur may face a lot of pressure and scrutiny at all times.

This is when, we must encourage more peer-to-peer platforms such as ASCENT amongst growth focused entrepreneurs. Several non-measurable learnings can emerge from conversations with like-minded entrepreneurs. These diverse views can trigger several blind spots which is extremely crucial for business growth.

At an individual level, when you work with start-ups or young entrepreneurs, what draws you to work with them?

At an individual level as well as from the viewpoint of ASCENT Foundation, what excites us about entrepreneurs is:
n Strong right to win n A determined ambition to grow n Shares a principled sense of business and personal ethics n Willingness to share their knowledge and learnings and most important is willing to have trust-based collaborations n How positively is an entrepreneur able to accept and address failure

You recently have entered into the health sector. Would we see you engage in the health and wellness sector further? Are there any new plans in the pipeline?

Yes, we have recently launched my second venture into the health and wellness sector which is a chain of physiotherapy centres that will use land, air and water elements for healthcare called AquaCentric. Funded by my family office Sharrp Ventures, AquaCentric’s first facility was launched in July spread over 7,000 sq ft. We are in the midst of launching our other facilities at Worli, while two more centres will come up in Thane and Powai. Eventually we are planning to expand our presence pan India but that will take a while.

Each of centres offers a medical gym, therapeutic pools and other underwater equipment. We want to offer our customers/patients specially curated therapies for individuals as well as groups. Our aim through AquaCentric is to cater to every individual’s needs and provide end-to-end rehabilitation experience.

During ASCENT Foundation’s Conclave, you said you have no plans to retire. So, what would your short-term and long-term plan be?

In the short term, I want ASCENT Foundation to expand its footprint into newer territories. In August 2018, we launched a chapter in Chennai and have met a favourable response. A lot of our initiatives would now be focused on strengthening the Chennai chapter. From a membership point of view, we are a community of 400 entrepreneurs and wish that the numbers grow a lot more. A huge focus is to bring in more female entrepreneurs and increase the 10 per cent mark among our entrepreneur members.

From a long-term perspective, I do hope that I am able to build an ecosystem to provide a platform with like-minded entrepreneurs that serves as a sounding board wherein they are able to make decisions towards their personal and business-related growth. It is essential that we build a strong foundation for not only the current generation of entrepreneurs but for the next generations. Entrepreneurs are crucial for economic development and I do hope I am able to play a part in nurturing hundreds and thousands of them.

I wish that I am able to give back a lot more to society through my various initiatives such as ASCENT Foundation, Mariwala Health Initiative, Marico Innovation Foundation, AquaCentric and Pure Sense.

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