Marico Bangladesh Limited, the India-based multinational company, has been serving the country with its huge array of personal care products since the late 1990s.
It started in Bangladesh back in 1999 with its flagship brand, Parachute Coconut Oil. Since then, the company has transformed itself from a single brand to 29 brands in personal care and food categories.
In a conversation with TBS, Christabel Randolph, Legal and Corporate Affairs Director at Marico Bangladesh, highlighted the journey of the company in Bangladesh and plans to expand its footprint in the domestic market.
The Business Standard: Marico Bangladesh is known for having an innovative and collaborative working environment. What are the unique attributes that have brought MBL such a reputation?
Christabel Randolph: I have been part of Marico Bangladesh since 2016, before which I was part of other corporations and practised in the District Courts and Supreme Court of Bangladesh. My varied work experience has exposed me to different types of workplaces, and each of these has been an enlightening experience.
What really stands out in my mind about Marico, is the culture of collaboration, innovation and inclusiveness. Our unifying philosophy of making a difference means there is no job too small or too big at Marico and we strive to create an impact in whatever we do. Marico is a workplace that inspires innovation by challenging talent while at the same time giving them independence and an enabling environment to experiment and apply their own unique skill-sets and capabilities. At Marico, everyone has the opportunity to make a difference, and to do that in their own way.
TBS: What are the challenges you face in handling the legal and corporate affairs of a global brand like Marico?
CR: At the core, we are guided by our Marico Values – a set of ethics or principles that determine our actions and decisions. You can see our Value tree on our website as well. We believe in being "opportunity seeking", "transparent" and "boundaryless". This means, every time we are confronted with a challenge, we work to turn that into an opportunity. There is no "perfect" or "ideal" legal/judicial and regulatory landscape anywhere in the world. In a rapidly developing country like Bangladesh where laws, as well as processes, are evolving, we have the opportunity of navigating this ambiguity and engaging in policy advocacy for ushering in positive change. Being a legal and corporate affair professional requires proactively identifying risks or opportunities and solutioning accordingly.
As one of the leading multinational companies in the country, Marico Bangladesh is dedicated to leading by example. We are aware of the responsibility we have in forming policies and processes, and we take that responsibility very seriously. In determining the right approach of driving corporate affairs we follow a simple hierarchy, first, what's best for the country, then what's best for industry & consumers. Whatever satisfies these two criteria will automatically be best for the organisation. We have been consistently recognised for our corporate governance. By setting standards for compliance, sustainability and giving back to the community, we strive to operate with transparency which lends credence to our external engagements. We must extend our sincerest gratitude to all our regulatory stakeholders for their responsiveness and guidance in doing business in Bangladesh. Without their support, it would have been impossible to ensure business continuity, especially during the covid period.
TBS: During your tenure, Marico has partnered with multiple public and private organisations. What makes such partnerships successful and helps you to be the impact you want to see in the world?
CR: I believe the key to effective change is collaboration, learning from each other and amplifying our collective voice. The private sector has a critical role to play in achieving sustainable development goals as well as in ensuring good governance. Working alone we can do many good things but together we can do great things. At different times we have partnered with Dhaka Ahsania Mission to provide free education to out-of-school children, with Adamya Foundation to provide empowering work experiences and employment to differently-abled persons and our flagship partnership is with UNDP and the government in the SWAPNO program.
By providing productive and sustainable livelihoods for our beneficiaries through SWAPNO, women-led households can enhance their quality of life through economic independence, financial inclusion, nutrition, and social awareness—components of an empowering and nurturing existence. The aim of the SWAPNO program is to transform the lives of ultra-poor women in a sustainable manner by delivering inclusive growth. We have learnt much from our partnership with a global expert like UNDP and together we were able to spearhead the private sector dialogue on CSR as a tool for Bangladesh to achieve the SDGs. We started this partnership in 2018 and will continue till December 2023.
At Marico, we place a strong emphasis on "knowledge partnerships". In all our collaborations with other organisations, we endeavour to build our collective capability through generative dialogue and cross-insemination of learning. We want to expand the scope of our partnerships. We are keen to work with remote and climate-vulnerable agro or farming communities to include them in formal value and/or supply chains. We are in the process of scoping more partnerships and programs for making a tangible impact in these areas.
TBS: How do you think Marico has influenced relevant stakeholders to "make a difference"?
CR: As I said earlier our corporate philosophy is to make a difference. This broad philosophy allows us to aim for impact and positively influence all our stakeholders – consumers, business partners and communities. I believe that the various collaborations and partnerships we have undertaken even through our beloved brands like Parachute Advansed partnership with Biman Bangladesh Airlines to highlight women's participation in challenging roles or Mediker SafeLife's pledge to support front-line workers during covid have enabled us to create a lasting impact for our stakeholders.
Our factory members carry out programs like "Teach Little Minds" in communities surrounding our operations educating young children on safety, wellbeing and hygiene. We have a code of business ethics that guides our business partners in ethically conducting business which in turn fortifies the culture of fair business practices in the entire value chain. During covid-19, to respond to the health needs of consumers, we launched our Mediker SafeLife Hygiene range with a profit pledge and contributed to the Prime Minister's Welfare Fund. In partnership with the Gazipur local administration, we carried out month-long food drives in 2020 and 2021 for out-of-work households during the covid-induced lockdown. Local youth volunteered to distribute this relief to the beneficiaries which allowed us to deeply engage with communities surrounding our manufacturing operations and provide them with the food security to remain at home during peak infection periods and mitigate the spread.
Marico Bangladesh has always prioritised delivering sustainable performance through "conscious capitalism" and contextualised corporate citizenship programs. This has positively influenced our stakeholders and as a publicly listed company has also reflected in our performance on the stock market which demonstrates stakeholder confidence in our business.
TBS: Speaking of influence, how much has Marico inspired you to do more of what you believe in?
CR: Marico has given me the space to innovate and execute. I have been given the freedom to explore partnerships that would make a meaningful impact not just for Marico as an organisation, but which are aligned to our country's priorities in achieving sustainable development goals. In the 5 years that I have been here, and through the meaningful and purposeful work I have had the privilege of doing through this wonderful company, I believe I have developed into a more well-rounded professional and a better leader. Marico has enabled me to work beyond the set moulds of our professional labels or qualifications and grow beyond role profiles and geographies. If there's a great idea and a plan to execute it, Marico will support you in creating that impact.
TBS: What kind of challenges is Marico Bangladesh facing during Covid-19 as a corporate company? What are its prospects for the new year?
CR: Ensuring the safety of our talent was and continues to be a top priority for us and we have endeavoured to respond to this challenge through open communication and people-centric measures to address the health and safety needs of our members. Covid has caused supply chain disruptions around the world and Bangladesh is no exception. However, our government authorities responded with agility and Marico with other industry members carried out continuous dialogue with relevant authorities to ensure the safety of life as well as livelihoods. The pandemic saw a shift in consumer needs with added emphasis on personal and home hygiene and immunity building habits. During the pandemic, we launched our Mediker SafeLife hygiene range, Saffola Honey and Parachute Naturale shampoo. Carrying out business operations, and more significantly, launching new products was only possible due to the ownership and commitment of our members. We were able to recover quickly from the pandemic shocks thanks to our agile supply chain management (for which we have won awards in 2020!).
For the new year, we're gearing up to expand our manufacturing operations. Last year, Marico Bangladesh signed a land lease agreement with the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) to invest in the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpanagar (BSMSN). The work to set up our third factory at BSMSN is underway, and we are looking forward to providing best-in-class products to Bangladeshi consumers and expanding our footprint in international markets as proud ambassadors of Made in Bangladesh. We are also looking to partner with skills development organisations to provide employment to local communities through our BSMSN operations. This is an opportunity for us to accelerate our green operations with our "Road to Zero" motto. We are here to craft our growth story in Bangladesh, with Bangladesh.