Diversification is the key for expansion and growth and has now become a necessity for businesses to stay relevant and sustain in the post Covid era. Decoding disruption and business diversification for the Indian entrepreneurs, Harsh Mariwala, chairman of Marico and founder of ASCENT Foundation, talks to Sudhir Chowdhary about the changes in entrepreneurship after the pandemic, key lessons for entrepreneurs and the way forward for the ecosystem. Excerpts:
How would you decode disruption in the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem in the new normal?
What we are witnessing will surely be remembered as a historic deployment of remote work and digital access to services across every domain. There have been significant disruptions making it imperative for businesses to adapt and act fast to pivot in order to build resilience for the years ahead. In the last year, the economy has witnessed a huge leap in consumer and business digital adoption. This has made many ‘good to have’ digital capabilities a ‘must have’. Hence, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to change gears at this juncture to run a successful business.
The sixth year of the ASCENT eConclave on November 26, 2021 falls in the stabilised new normal aimed to equip entrepreneurs to adapt to the significant disruptions by redefining strategies, undertaking organisational changes, and upskilling workforce at scale. Conversations among thought leaders from across industries will focus on fast-moving technology trends, digital transformation strategy and future disruptions.
How can entrepreneurs adopt technology to ensure their businesses evolve with the needs of the business environment?
Moving to a new business needs a different set of competencies, domain knowledge and one has to go through a huge learning curve. On the other hand, diversification is the key for expansion and growth and has now become a necessity to stay relevant and sustain in the post-Covid era. That said, you should diversify into related businesses where you can use your existing competencies to full potential. MSMEs have proved to be the backbone of the country by making a quick and strong recovery from the pandemic. A major reason behind this recovery has been the ease of adaptation and openness to diversify operations and offerings in a collective manner. The opportunity-seeking nature of MSMEs combined with their innovative spirit and adaptable nature has helped them to diversify, moving from the traditional approach and embracing the new normal.
Diversification at a time when the economy is changing rapidly has to be backed with expertise, knowledge and calculated risks leading to sustainability as well as growth. The small business owners that are part of the ASCENT Foundation cohort were able to adapt and diversify through the support of like-minded entrepreneurs whose experience helped them take the right decisions, after analysing the pros and cons.
How are entrepreneurs expected to adapt to technological advancement to be able to leverage it for their businesses?
Every sector has witnessed a drastic change in the last one year, be it, in the way they do business, the channels through which they reach customers or in the interactions with their employees. In addition to this, the increased use of digital and technology has been one common constant across the supply chain. These advancements in technology are not a temporary solution during the Covid pandemic but are here to stay and have created a strong base for the economic reform hereon. Hence it is of utmost importance that every company adapts to the new normal and the new way of functioning to continue to stay relevant in the post Covid world.
A lot of new opportunities have emerged in the new normal. Be it the rise of new industries like the organic goods, vegan food, telehealth, virtual reality, etc., or technology advancements in existing sectors such as healthcare, education, banking. While the market for the new opportunities is niche at the moment they are growing rapidly. Early adoption to such trends will give organisations the first mover advantage when the industry will explode, especially in a huge country like India.
What do you think is the big opportunity for the entrepreneurs of today to become the industry leaders of tomorrow?
For any business to survive the test of time, it is important that the entrepreneur stays in touch with the customer at all times in order to get deeper insights to their changing and evolving needs. There are times when customers do not know what they need but it is for the business to unearth the needs through the insights they capture. In the last one year, we have seen a surge in technology adaption of customers. Their screen time has increased drastically and a larger portion of the target sector are now using technology for their daily activities.
Peer groups such as ASCENT have played an important role in ensuring smooth passage from these challenging times, especially for small business owners who look up to their Trust Groups members. Hence, diversification became an active conversation amongst growth-ready entrepreneurs helping each other to explore new opportunities.