The 260-page information docket containing details of the candidates shortlisted for the Business Standard awards for corporate excellence, 2012, looked daunting when it was sent to the jury, comprising seven of India Inc’s leading decision-makers. The question the BS Research Bureau had was whether the jury members would have the time to go through the reams of data and detailed profiles.
As things turned out, the concern was irrelevant. The intense discussions during the over-one-and-a half-hour meeting here last Friday afternoon showed the distinguished jury had come well-prepared. While some of the members bookmarked quite a few of the pages they found interesting, others had done detailed colour-coding on the positives and negatives of each candidate. A couple of them came with their own spreadsheets on the numbers, while one said he also “googled” some names to figure out whether they found place in the shortlist. But then, such rigour is only to be expected of a power-packed jury, for which excellence is not a destination but a journey.
The initial shortlisting by the BS Research Bureau was done by choosing firms that had posted top line and bottom line growth of over 20 per cent compounded in each of the three years between 2009-10 and 2011-12. Other financial criteria, including returns on net worth and capital employed, were also applied.
The tone of the meeting to decide on a few outstanding individuals and institutions was set by ICICI Bank and Infosys Chairman K V Kamath, the chairman of the jury. “We want the Business Standard awards to be different. It’s not the usual market-cap ranking. We must honour those who have contributed to the creation of a New India,” Kamath said.
Everyone also agreed with AMM Foundation Managing Trustee M V Subbiah’s suggestion that one had to go beyond just the financials. “We need to look at how they have touched the lives of the real India and how they have contributed to leadership development and corporate social responsibility – in short, we have to give due weightage to the qualitative aspects,” he said.
CEO of the year
The discussion on the CEO of the year went on for over 45 minutes and the consensus choice finally was Titan Industries MD Bhaskar Bhat, who, L&T Finance Holdings CMD Y M Deosthalee said, had transformed the company “quietly”. Under Bhat, Titan has grown from a niche watchmaker (it already is the fifth-largest watch-maker in the world) to a leading speciality retailer that sells everything from gold jewellery (Tanishq is the country’s biggest jewellery retailer) to bags, belts and wallets. And, it’s now incubating new businesses in youth watches, prescription eyewear and branded leather accessories. “He has entered three new businesses where India Inc had no presence and made those successful. That’s outstanding work,” said Marico CMD Harsh Mariwala.
Apart from the scale of operations (sales grew from Rs 4,770 crore to Rs 8,848 crore between 2009-10 and 2011-12), what impressed the jury was how Bhat had taken profitability to a new league. Titan’s net profit crossed Rs 600 crore in 2011-12 at a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54 per cent.
When contacted, Bhat, 56, was generous in attributing this “most satisfying and special success” to his employees, customers, business associates and leadership team. “It celebrates our endeavour to transform and reform industry sectors, our sincerity of purpose, simplicity of behaviour and the quality of our people… all qualities of the Tata group and modern India,” he said.
Company of the year
The jury felt due recognition must be given to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which had become something of a gold standard for the Indian information technology industry. McKinsey India MD Noshir Kaka said, “TCS MD & CEO N Chandrasekaran has done an incredible job consistently”, while AZB Managing Partner Zia Mody termed his performance “fabulous” and KKR India CEO Sanjay Nayar described him as a “hard runner”.
The jury gave enough reasons for the grand adjectives. TCS has sailed through the IT industry’s crisis period with barely a flutter. In fact, in the two-and-a-half years as the CEO, Chandra, as the CEO is better known as, took the revenue to $10 billion by the end of FY12. The market value of the firm more than doubled in the period. The acquisitions and growth of non-linear businesses were also transformational in nature, the jury felt.
Most innovative company of the year
The jury then veered round to the view that innovation was the key to survival at a time when Indian companies were going through a tough phase. And the unanimous choice (in fact, this award took the least time to decide) was Mahindra & Mahindra, a company that had become synonymous with innovation — so much so that it became a case study for the Harvard Business Review.
The jury felt CMD Anand Mahindra had made M&M an innovation factory that did not look at just the lowest cost per unit of output, but searched for the lowest cost per unit of innovation. “Apart from the range of products such as Bolero, Xylo and others, look at what Anand is doing with SsangYong. That’s incredible innovation,” Kamath said. The jury felt it was not for nothing that Ratan Tata had praised M&M for the wonderful work it had done to beat Tata Motors.
Star MNC of the year
The star multinational company of the year award went to engineering firm, Bosch India, though it was not in the original shortlist, as the firm fell just short of the 20 per cent growth cut-off in one of the past three years. But the jury felt Bosch’s sauce for success was its strategy of converting the downside in the Indian automotive industry into an opportunity through its deep commitment to the Indian market, constant innovation, speed to market and its response to skill development.
Star SME of the year
Moving on to the small and medium enterprise (SME) space, the jury discussed several names, but Page Industries, founded by Sunder Genomal in 1994, was the chosen one. The firm, a franchisee for Jockey International and an exclusive licensee of Speedo International, has managed to capture a fifth of the men’s innerwear market and 12 per cent of women’s. The jury took note of the opinion of leading analysts that Page was in a sweet spot as its pricing was at a 50 per cent premium to large local brands and at a significant discount to luxury innerwear brands. Page went public in 2007 and issued around 2.8 million shares of Rs 10 each at a premium of Rs 350. The stock is currently trading at Rs 3,400 a share.
There were three contenders to the Star public sector enterprise of the year, but the jury felt none made the cut and recommended the award be withheld this year.