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FILA 2021: Honouring builders of corporate immunity

In a year when business leaders were forced to overhaul their strategies from growth to survival mode, the Forbes India Leadership Awards 2021 honour those who successfully navigated the pandemic by innovating and leading from the front

Salil Panchal
Published: Mar 1, 2021 12:00:32 PM IST

FILA 2021: Honouring builders of corporate immunity

The Forbes India Leadership Awards (FILA), now in the 10th year, are an acknowledgement of corporate excellence, visionary leadership and innovation. The Covid-19 pandemic hurt the world possibly like never before: A massive loss of human life, lockdown in industrial activity, huge government debts for most countries and a range of bankruptcies and subsequent job losses—in the retail, telecom, aviation and hospitality space.

The pressure to stay afloat became more acute for Indian companies, particularly as they were in the midst of a slowdown pre-pandemic. India’s pace of growth is likely to contract by 7.5 to 8 percent for the full fiscal.

Business leaders were forced to rethink and overhaul their strategies from growth to survival mode. It thus meant deploying finance, technology and human resources most effectively.  

Our distinguished jury used these themes to identify companies and business leaders worthy of corporate honours. We introduced three new awards this year: Covid-19 innovators and two philanthropy awards—a reflection of the need to recognise those supporting social causes.
Achieving corporate excellence, turning around business fortunes or scaling up startups was rare. Besides the quantitative data, which includes operating performance and efficiency measures, we looked at leadership skills and the quality of corporate governance to determine candidates.

Cyrus Poonawalla wins the Lifetime Achievement Award for successfully rolling out the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for global and domestic use, and for revolutionising India’s biotech landscape since the mid-1960s. Byju Raveendran is Entrepreneur For the Year for pioneering the edtech sector in India and scaling up the business during the pandemic. Prashant Warier, who co-founded health tech startup Qure.ai, won the Covid-19 Innovator Award for reinventing the firm’s qXR technology to help fight the virus.

Wipro founder Azim Premji, former banker Amit Chandra and his wife Archana won awards in the philanthropy space. Infosys’s CEO Salil Parekh won the Best CEO-private sector and Cadila Healthcare’s Sharvil Patel bagged the award in the GenNext Entrepreneur category.

Indian companies have rushed to raise capital last year to strengthen their balance sheets in a still-uncertain global business environment, even as the system is flush with liquidity. With the resurgence of Covid-19, FY22 could well discover corporate leaders who have successfully turned around their businesses, post-pandemic.

The process started almost three months ago with extensive research on qualitative and quantitative parameters. The long list of names in each category was whittled down by January-end and narrowed down to a strong set of six to 11 nominations per category. In early February, the high-powered jury headed by Harsh Mariwala, founder and chairman of Marico, debated the nominations to decide the winners. The other jury members were Ashu Suyash, Gautam Kumra, Saurabh Mukherjea, Puneet Bhatia and Sandeep Naik. Venture Intelligence, which tracks private company financials, private equity transactions and mergers, helped with financial data of listed and unlisted firms.w

(This story appears in the 12 March, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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