Freedom of Choice is Next Gen’s Biggest Tool for Success
By Nihaal Mariwala
For me, my “previous generations” line of business has been a defining factor in most minor and major details of my life, starting with my last name. Mariwala literally translated means person in charge of pepper or pepper trader, a moniker bestowed on my great grandfather after his pioneering efforts in establishing a pepper trading house in pre-Independence India.
I am often asked what encourages me to pursue the line of business taken by previous generations within my family, and the response is simple; freedom. For generations, my ancestors have strived to create businesses that do not naturally pass to the next generation, but instead afford them the opportunity and platform to build new and unique businesses as additional and ultimately self-sufficient operations.
For example, my father Sanjay built upon our family’s rich spice ingredient tradition by adapting a commodity driven food flavours business into one with naturally sourced, science backed ingredients for health and wellness markets.
Today, I am expanding on that with a consumer facing health and wellness company. Setu has been conceived as a 5th generation business, a natural evolution of our interests from bulk spices, to higher quality flavour and fragrance extracts, to science driven nutritional ingredients, and ultimately consumer-facing health and nutrition brands.
All this success and innovation has been created on a bedrock of freedom and encouragement from family elders to learn and uncover more about each of our skills and interests by building businesses OUT of existing portions of the business, and running them independently.
As my dad so often says, we are not a business family, but rather a family of entrepreneurs – each out to achieve their own dreams and goals and objectives using our rich and storied heritage. The freedom afforded to each generation to build a creative business founded in each of our passions is the most important thing for me.
I was put through an apprenticeship at our parent company, but encouraged to use my insights and tailor them to my interests, to develop a viable business model that I as a promoter would have not just a financial, but also a personal and emotional investment in.
Hence, Setu was shaped out of my exposure to a variety of US brands including GNC, Target, Jarrow and others, which encouraged me to try to create something afresh. OmniActive, our parent company, is an ingredient partner for these big American brands, and through a close sales and marketing relationship with them I was able to develop an understanding of how their businesses work. My interests lay in creatively constructing a consumer-focused brand for the Indian market, and I was encouraged to use my time with OmniActive to understand how to do that.
In my view the best way to encourage future generations to continue a previous generation’s business is to allow the freedom to envision new hopes and possibilities. Take the instance of Sanjiv Bajaj, a massively successful entrepreneur who used the network and financial knowledge built up within his family’s eponymous scooter company to touch millions of Indian households with financial services offerings. That is a perfect example of a storied business house encouraging the flexibility of thought and the freedom of action required to truly entice their young into participating in wealth creation. There is no point in indoctrinating a younger family member into the historic and rigid old business structures – allow us next gens to push our boundaries and our ideas, and to experience the best and worst of our own businesses.
The writer is CEO & Founder of Setu, a modern health supplements brand