When one of India's most celebrated bankers chairs a jury comprising the heads of India's largest passenger car maker, its second-largest telecom company, a leading private equity firm, two marquee management and strategic consultancy organisations and one of India's top legal eagles, the quality of the judgement is predictable. The task of selecting the winners - in a year when the slowdown was the main theme - was a tough one, but the seven-member jury for the Business Standard Awards for corporate excellence in 2014 made it look simple.
|INDIA INC’S INVISIBLE CHAMPIONS|
What perhaps made the job of selecting the outstanding individuals and institutions simpler was the tone set by the jury's chairman, K V Kamath, at the beginning of the one-and-a-half hours of intense discussions in Mumbai in mid-December last year. The chairman of ICICI Bank and Infosys said: "The winners should represent the India of today and they should have a reasonably long track record so that their success endures." He was also in favour of retaining a high cut-off on financial numbers for getting into the shortlist of potential winners, even as the external environment was tough.
True to that spirit, the jury set the strictness quotient a level higher and said that while financial ratios were important for making the first cut, equal importance had to be given to individuals who built real institutions at a time when the challenges in the external environment were severe. Innovation and globalisation were the other factors that would go into the final selection.
Each jury member had read the 260-page information docket containing details of the candidates shortlisted by the Business Standard Research Bureau, which chose firms that posted top line and bottom line growth of over 15 and 10 per cent, respectively, in each of the three years from 2011-12 to 2013-14. Other financial criteria, including returns on net worth and capital employed, were also applied.
The dominance of information technology companies in the shortlist led to a lively discussion initiated by Maruti Suzuki Chairman R C Bhargava, who noted that some of the manufacturing companies were doing great work but lost out on financial metrics. KKR India Chief Executive Sanjay Nayar agreed and said the relative lack of buoyancy in the manufacturing sector provided some food for thought for policy-makers.
Kamath began the process by asking members to shortlist two candidates from each category - each of whom were then subjected to intense scrutiny. The agenda was a formidable one: Selecting the CEO of the Year and Company of the Year, and achievers in other categories - Star Public-Sector Undertaking of the Year, Star Multinational Company of the Year and Star Small and Medium Enterprise of the Year.
To celebrate Business Standard's 40th year of thought leadership, two other awards were added this year - Best Entrepreneur of 40 years and Best Company of 40 years. This was also to recognise institutions and individuals who started operating in the late 1970s and made a significant impact on the country's business landscape.
There were seven names in the shortlist for the CEO of the Year, but the unanimous choice was Tech Mahindra MD and CEO C P Gurnani who, the jury said, had an "enormously hard task" to take the company into the big league, and yet came out with flying colours. In recent times, under Gurnani, Tech Mahindra has very successfully demonstrated how a company can create long-term strategic value through acquisitions. Today, TechM is among India's 'Big Five' software service exporters. Nayar said Gurnani's "fantastic customer-centricity" helped TechM mine existing client relationships, which explained the company's superior growth rates and high return ratios.
For the Star MNC, seven companies made the first cut and the jury pruned the list to two. But for its enduring success, the unanimous choice was GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, which had won the award in 2010 as well. The company has maintained its industry-beating performance by reinventing its Rs 3,000-crore health food drink, Horlicks, and expanding its rural reach.
The Star PSU was the easiest to decide, and everyone agreed on Power Grid Corporation. One of the fastest-growing electricity utility companies, PowerGrid has shown remarkable compound annual growth rates of 22 per cent in sales and 18.6 per cent in net profit over the past three years - a period when companies in the power and other infrastructure sectors faced huge problems.
In the small and medium enterprise (SME) space the jury discussed several names, but eClerx Services, India's first publicly-listed knowledge and business processing outsourcing company, emerged the winner. Incorporated in 2000 and listed in 2007, the Mumbai-based firm offers a slew of services to its 30-odd Global Fortune 500 clients.
The unanimous choice for the Best Entrepreneur of 40 years was N R Narayana Murthy, whose greatest contribution to Indian business is not the creation of Infosys, one of India's most successful companies. It is the creation of the possibility that a set of ordinary, hard-working people with strong values can create jobs and wealth, and distribute wealth on a large scale - all of that legally and ethically, the jury said.
For the Best Company of 40 Years, the jury discussed several names but zeroed in on Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) because of its pioneering role in the emergence and growth of the information technology services industry in India.