has nothing to do with Ascent, and he expects nothing back from this personal initiative, which does not even charge a joining fee. “This is not started with the intention of getting something back.” As someone who has undergone the rigours of scaling up, Mariwala wants to lend a helping hand to entrepreneurs. In the process, if he gets to know of some extremely promising enterprises, maybe, he can expand the relationship. “We are not aware of what’s going in a group. But they get a lot of benefits”, Mariwala asserts.
Before Ascent, Mariwala tried to help budding women entrepreneurs. But it didn’t last long. “I realised that each new entrepreneur has a different set of issues to be handled. And no cross-learning was possible as most are inexperienced. The purpose was to make an impact in terms of numbers. Then I thought of scaling up (enterprises). The advantage with a scaling up group is that most are experienced for five-to-ten years and able to help others”, says Mariwala who has turned a small-time edible oil business into a close to R5,000-crore-revenue, home-grown multinational company in 40 years.
The biggest challenge in scaling up, Mariwala says, is of people. “How do you attract good talent, retain talent, reward them, how manage teams; a whole host of issues come up when you start growing up. How you trust, how you delegate, what leadership style will work...Then a second set of issues comes up; how do you raise finances. Then, how do you differentiate the business model, how do you control costs..”
Trust-groups can come up with solutions to some of these issues. Mariwala admits he too faces a people problem. “Every entrepreneur faces it. I don’t call it a problem. It is a challenge to get the right people...There is a talent shortage in the country. People are realising that good talent makes a big difference.”
What is his advice to budding entrepreneurs? “My advice is that you decide where you have a right to win. Don’t do something because somebody else is doing it. You have to identify your strength and leverage that. See the opportunities in the market. And have a growth mindset. Growth is like oxygen, it excites all stakeholders.”
Ready for some oxygen?