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BS awards: Toasting corporate excellence

President asks industry leaders to have belief in themselves

President Pranab Mukherjee referred to the award winners as representatives of the indomitable spirit of innovation and enterprise. And, from start to finish, the 2012 Business Standard Annual Awards ceremony, held here on Saturday evening, toasted a resurgent India that's fighting against all odds.

The guests, who assembled to honour the outstanding businesses and business people of the year, came from far and wide: The President, who was the chief guest, from the national capital; Tata Consultancy Services CEO & MD N Chandrasekaran, recipient of the Company of the Year award, straight from the US; and quite a few other award winners and guests from Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and elsewhere. In a full house at the Shangri-La Ballroom that meant some guests were forced to stand at the back, there were many familiar faces and famous names.

A common thread through the evening was that the time had come for Indian companies to ride out the storm by believing in themselves. In his speech, the President asked industry captains to keep faith in the robustness of the Indian economy which, he said, would be able to achieve seven-eight per cent annual growth in the next two to three years. "Despite the financial crisis, which created virtual mayhem in the largest economies of the world, India was able to withstand the turbulence and register a growth rate of 6.7 per cent in 2008-09. We steered through the rough economic weather and achieved 9.3 per cent economic growth in 2010-11," the President said.

Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan presided over the function and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was the Guest of Honour.

The spirit the President talked about in his speech was perhaps best exemplified by Sachin Padwal-Desai and Sunder Genomal, two of the nine award winners. In his short acceptance speech after getting the Fund Manager of the Year (Debt) award, Padwal-Desai, vice-president of Franklin Templeton, said he had "come to Mumbai 13 years ago to make a living and could never believe one day he would share the dais with such luminaries".

On his part, Genomal, MD of Page Industries and recipient of the Star SME award, said, when he had come back to India in 1994 with nothing much except confidence in a resurgent India, he had never dreamt his efforts would be recognised "on such a grand scale".

Their response was typical of the evening, one where the leading lights of the business world walked away with glittering trophies and, to the last person, thanked their respective companies, colleagues, customers and families for helping them to the top step of the podium.

The corporate award winners were chosen by a distinguished jury led by ICICI Bank Chairman and Infosys Non-Executive Chairman K V Kamath. The other members were AMM Foundation Managing Trustee M V Subbiah, Marico CMD Harsh Mariwala, KKR India CEO Sanjay Nayar, L&T Finance Holdings CMD Y M Deosthalee, senior partner of AZB & Partners Zia Mody and McKinsey India MD Noshir Kaka. Not surprisingly, many of the award winners said they felt honoured being selected by such a jury.

The recipients of the awards also did themselves proud with the quality of their acceptance speeches. Accepting the CEO of the Year award, Titan Industries MD & CEO Bhaskar Bhat said the 'E' in the word CEO represented many things - enterprise, entrepreneur, ethics, environment and employee - and he had been trying to do justice to all of those, with the help of the thousands of Titanians. Bhat also, perhaps, introduced a new term into the lexicon when he said his family members (all present to cheer) had stood by him through all these years despite there having been no ROTI - "return on time invested".

Under Bhat, Titan has grown from a niche watch maker (it is the fifth-largest in the world) to a leading speciality retailer that sells everything from gold jewellery (Tanishq is India's biggest jewellery retailer) to bags, belts and wallets. And, it's now incubating businesses in youth watches, prescription eyewear and branded leather accessories.

A highlight of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement award, which went to Y K Hamied, chairman of Cipla. Though the award was received by his brother — Cipla MD M K Hamied — as he was abroad, the senior Hamied said in a recorded speech the award was a testament to the ideals he had fought for and fiercely defended over the past 50 years, in spite of all odds, always keeping in mind what was best for India. “We strongly believe there should be no monopoly in health care, that access to vital life-saving medicines at affordable prices is a basic human right and that none should be denied medication,” Hamied said.

TCS got the Company of the Year award for becoming something of a gold standard for the information technology industry and sailed through the IT industry’s crisis period with barely a flutter. Receiving the award, Chandrasekaran gave all credit to each of his 264,000 colleagues who shared his passion to excel.

Mahindra & Mahindra received the Most Innovative Company of the Year award for becoming 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. The awards were received by two of the company’s key executives — Chetan Maini, chief of strategy & technology at Mahindra Reva, and Rajan Wadhera, M&M’s CEO (technology, product development and sourcing — auto & farm equipment).

The Banker of the Year 2012 award went to M D Mallya, former CMD of Bank of Baroda whose four-year tenure at the top saw the bank achieve spectacular growth on business per employee to quality of assets.

Bosch India got the Star MNC of the Year award for converting the downside in the Indian automotive industry into an opportunity. Receiving the award, Steffen Berns, MD, talked about the German parent’s deep commitment to the Indian market, constant innovation and speed.

Page Industries, a franchisee for Jockey International and an exclusive licensee of Speedo International, got the Star SME award for managing to capture a fifth of the men’s innerwear market and 12 per cent of women’s.

The jury had taken 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.

HDFC AMC’s Prashant Jain got the Equity Fund Manager of the Year award.

In his speech, Chief Minister Chavan said the achievements of the award winners showed how one could buck the trend and cash in on opportunities even in these difficult times.

He also asked industry captains to invest more in Maharashtra, taking advantage of the new industrial policy announced recently.

He also appealed to the companies to utilise their respective corporate social responsibility funds to help Maharashtra tide over its worst drought in 40 years.