Life is not a template and neither is mine. Like several who have worked as journalists, I am a generalist in my over two decade experience across print, global news wires and dotcom firms. But there has been one underlying theme in each phase; life gave me the chance to observe and tell a story -- from early days tracking a securities scam to terror attacks and some of India's most significant court trials. Besides writing, I have jumped fences to become an entrepreneur, as an investment advisor -- and also taught the finer aspects of business journalism to young minds. At Forbes India, I also keep an eye on some of its proprietary specials like the Rich list, GenNext and Celebrity lists. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Communications and H.R College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, I have worked for organisations such as Agence France-Presse, Business Standard, The Financial Express and The Times of India prior to this.
The Forbes India Leadership Awards (FILA), now in its 12th edition, the Forbes India team has attempted to be consistent with the original vision of shining the spotlight on the best leaders, founders and innovators.
The Forbes India Leadership Awards (FILA), now in its 12th year, is an acknowledgement of corporate excellence, visionary leadership, innovation and taking hard decisions to make the business succeed. Fiscal 2023 was the first year since FY19 to be least impacted by the pandemic. It saw improved capacity utilisation, according to 2022 mid-year manufacturing output data. But inflationary pressures have been stubborn and an increasing threat of recession in some Western economies, shocks to the global banking system and rising input and borrowing costs are concerns which are unlikely to vanish in FY24.
Forecasts, however, show corporate India could see double digit revenue growth in FY24. Operating margins are likely to improve, given benign commodity prices and much of the interest rate action from central banks behind us. The uncertainties will be for export-focussed corporates. The impact of a harsh summer and potentially weak monsoon on crop output, food inflation and the recovery for a rural economy will also need to be studied.
Statistically, India’s pace of growth is likely to expand by 7 percent for the full fiscal ending March 2023, lower than a revised 9.1 percent growth for FY22.
The growth in ecommerce and technology-led businesses will have to be watched closely, considering that private equity and venture capital funding to the startup ecosystem was weak in the past 12 months.
Our distinguished jury used these themes to identify companies and business leaders worthy of corporate honours. We introduced five new awards in FILA 2023: Turnaround Star, Regional Goliath, Climate Warrior, Bootstrapped Hero and Emerging Innovator to recognise those who have transformed business fortunes or grown in size to challenge pan-Indian corporates. In the startup world, we looked at promoters who have either innovated in a major way or built a strong brand despite remaining bootstrapped.
Besides the quantitative data—operating performance and efficiency measures—we looked at leadership skills and the quality of corporate governance to determine candidates.
First generation entrepreneur Abhay Soi acquired and turned around Max Healthcare, making it India’s second largest hospital chain. For this, he stands out as the Entrepreneur of the Year.
Startup Skyroot Aerospace might be small in scale, but its founders Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka have made Indian spacefaring history with the successful launch of their Vikram-S rocket—the first privately built space rocket from India.
Tata Communications is the Turnaround Star for transforming itself into an agile, profit-making digital solution commtech multination in three years, from the government backed, loss-making telco.
Star Cement’s Co-Managing Director Rajendra Chamaria has emerged as a daring entrepreneur by building a cement empire in the Northeast, making the company a Regional Goliath.
India’s corporates are less leveraged than previous years, but private capex plans are unlikely to commence in a hurry. Job creation and income growth will be even more challenging for the government as it moves towards an election year. The need for FY24 could be to discover leadership which will be able to tackle challenges relating to capital raising, liquidity and disruptive technologies.
The process started almost three months ago, with extensive research on qualitative and quantitative parameters. The long list of names, 10 to 15 in each category, was narrowed down to six to 11 nominations per category by mid-January. In late February, a high-powered jury headed by Harsh Mariwala, founder and chairman of Marico, debated the nominations to decide the winners. The other jury members were a mix of bankers and venture capital experts, including Sakshi Chopra, V Vaidyanathan, Saurabh Mukherjea, Vishakha Mulye, Amit Chandra and Ankur Gupta. Venture Intelligence, which tracks private company financials, private equity transactions and mergers helped with financial data of listed and unlisted firms.
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(This story appears in the 31 March, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
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