Infosys in the News

Infosys Technologies is chosen Company Of The Year

The Economic Times today announced its Awards for Corporate Excellence, in consonance with its philosophy of recognising and celebrating business at its best.

The awards hail the new, salute the best of the old. They reflect the changing face of Corporate India, but do not lose sight of the towering contributions that have been made over the years. Above all, they are an acknowledgement of enlightened entrepreneurship, and of the drive for enhancement of stakeholder value, be it for shareholders, or employees, or customers, or society at large.

Awards are being given in five categories. Mr Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and also its CEO, is the unusual but unanimous choice for Businessperson Of The Year. Software powerhouse and management trendsetter Infosys Technologies is Company Of The Year. Zee Telefilms, which has blazed a trail in the entertainment business, has been named Emerging Company Of The Year. The overwhelming vote for Lifetime Achievement Award goes to the grand old man of Indian hospitality, Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, who turned 100 this August 15. To Tata Steel, goes the distinction of being Outstanding Corporate Citizen.

The awards, instituted this year by The Economic Times, were decided upon by an eight-member jury comprising Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) chairman Deepak Parekh, who also presided over the selection meeting at The Times Boardroom, Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata, A V Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) chairman G P Gupta, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) president Rajesh Shah, McKinsey's India managing director Ranjit Pandit, The Economic Times chief executive Arun Arora and The Economic Times executive editor Jaideep Bose.

Finance minister Yashwant Sinha has graciously accepted The Economic Times' invitation to present the awards on September 26 at a ceremony in Mumbai.

Of the five awards, readers were invited to send in their nominations through a poll in The Economic Times and The Times of India for three - Company of The Year, Emerging Company of the Year and Businessperson of the Year, which was backed up an ORG-MARG survey.

This exercise was backed up by a more detailed poll by ORG-MARG among chief executives - the respondents read like a Who's Who of Corporate India. The findings of these polls were weighed very seriously by the jury at the final selection meeting. The other two awards - Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Corporate Citizen - were decided upon entirely by the jury.

A carefully-constructed set of performance parameters formed the qualifying criteria for the awards. For Company Of The Year and Emerging Company Of The Year, The Economic Times initially drew up a list of the top 100 listed companies in terms of market capitalisation. Those with a market cap of Rs 1,500 crore and above made it to the preliminary shortlist for the Company Of The Year, while those below were considered for Emerging Company Of The Year.

The ET Investment Bureau did some detailed number-crunching, applying an array of financial performance ratios to arrive at shortlists of 10 companies in each of these two categories. The parameters employed included expansion of market cap, growth indicators such as increase in sales and net profit, capital deployment efficiency benchmarks such as return on capital employed, shareholder return criteria such as return on net worth, and efficiency measures such as operating profit margins, among a host of others.

Although the decisions were unanimous, each category threw up its own galaxy of choices. For Company of the Year, there were worthy candidates like Reliance, Hindustan Lever and Wipro. For Emerging Company of the Year, Satyam Computers, Dr Reddy's Laboratories and TVS Suzuki were strong contenders. In naming Infosys and Zee as winners in these two categories, respectively, the jury has chosen to recognise the changing face of Corporate India. It was a vote in favour of the young and the restless.

Take Company Of The Year Infosys Technologies. Between 1996-97 and 1997-98, Infosys almost doubled its turnover from Rs 140 crore to Rs 260 crore, while net profit grew from Rs 37 crore to Rs 60 crore. Its market capitalisation grew 473 per cent between February 1997 and August 1998. What's more, Infosys has come to be viewed as a role model across Indian industry in terms of corporate transparency, enhancement of stakeholder values and global benchmarking. Infosys is expected to be the first Indian company to have its shares listed on an American stock exchange.

The company has arguably pioneered in India the concept of valuing intellectual capital, and has aggressively attempted to introduce employee stock options - it, however, has an employee stock offer plan in place for five years now.

At Emerging Company Of The Year Zee Telefilms, turnover rose from Rs 89 crore to Rs 114 crore during the period under consideration, while net profit grew from Rs 29 crore to Rs 34 crore. Market capitalisation has zoomed by almost 400 per cent from 164 crore to Rs 814 crore. This, in an industry where most other players have found the going tough. The only electronic media company listed on the bourses, Zee has also been ambitiously pushing into international markets, from the Gulf to UK and the US.

Zee Telefilms has exceptionally high return on net worth at 34 per cent, and return on assets at 25 per cent, while most companies in its industry are in the red. Zee is now at the threshold of a new high-growth curve, especially viewed against the backdrop of its ongoing talks to either manager or take over the Star TV network in India.

The choice of Businessperson of the Year was out-of-the-box. Among the front-runners were Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, London-based Lakshmi Nivas Mittal, Azim Premji of Wipro and N R Narayana Murthy of Infosys. But it was the youthful cyber-savvy, laptop-happy chief minister of AP, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, who won the day with the jury. It is a vote for reform, for a politician who means business and sees himself as a chief executive and his people as shareholders.

Mr Naidu has wowed both domestic and international businessmen with his slick PowerPoint presentations and his openness to new ideas. If global infotech giants like Microsoft, Oracle and Baan have decided to set up base in Andhra Pradesh, it is primarily due to Mr Naidu's untiring effort to sell his state as a haven for business. The newly-constructed Hitec City also stands testimony to his drive to turn Hyderabad into a knowledge city.

For the Lifetime Achievement Award, the jury had before it such outstanding names as Mr Dhirubhai Ambani, Mr H P Nanda, Mr Keshub Mahindra. But a chorus went up for the 100-year-old Mr Oberoi, who has made his name synonymous with class. Mr Oberoi, perhaps more than anyone else, can claim credit for going global and for believing in premium branding long before they became buzzwords in Corporate India.

Rai Bahadur M S Oberoi, who turned 100 this Independence Day, is credited with liberating India from the tyranny of many of its cliches. With the setting up of the Oberoi Intercontinental in 1965, he changed the idiom for hospitality in the country. In 1969, he pre-empted today's buzzword, globalisation, by starting his first international venture, The Soaltee Oberoi in Nepal. A native of the obscure Punjabi hamlet of Bhaun, Mr Oberoi literally created India's first MNC, and, arguably, pioneered the branding of India.

The Outstanding Corporate Citizen award seeks to recognise sterling attributes such as high standards of business ethics, a reputation for exemplary corporate transparency and governance, philanthropic activities and contribution to society beyond the call of the bottom line, as well as quality of dealings with all stakeholders, be they shareholders, employees, bankers, customers or regulators. Here, the jury recognised Tata Steel's contribution in making a relative El Dorado of steel city Jamshedpur in Bihar, going beyond setting up schools, hospitals and other community services. Mr Ratan Tata, who is chairman of Tisco, chose to stay away from the jury's deliberations when the company was being considered.

Choosing the Outstanding Corporate Citizen was no mean task, as the jury considered others such as National Dairy Development Board for its contribution to the cooperative movement, Sankar Netralaya for all that it has done for the visually-impaired, the Birlas for their role in education, health care and setting up of temples, Reliance for its huge relief operations in tornado-hit Gujarat, Sulabh Sauchalaya for building public toilets, and Hindustan Lever for its efforts in rural development. The Economic Times hopes the awards will play a role in moulding opinion as to the future direction of Indian business and industry, as well as its role in contributing to the larger good.

The Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence '98 are presented by Opel in association with Oberoi Hotels, Mumbai. The co-sponsors for the event are TimesBank, Pennzoil, Bank of Punjab and Solitaire.

The above item has been reprinted by arrangement with The Economic Times and is the copyright of the publishers, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. The Economic Times can be viewed at http://www.economictimes.com

 Published with permission of The Economic Times

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