You would think an average CEO spends a disproportionate amount of time worrying about that fierce archrival! Not really.
What about shareholder activism? No way.
Then, it must be the quarterly results! Absolutely not.
An overwhelming 72 per cent of CEOs fret over the rapid technological changes and digitisation, and about getting stranded with an obsolete business, according to a 2015 survey of the world's 500 largest corporations. In yet another study, at least one-fourth of those surveyed by Gartners 2015 CEO and Senior Executive Survey say technology-related issues is their top business priority for 2015 and 2016. And about two-thirds of those Gartner surveyed say their companies are involved in industry-level digital initiatives.
FULL COVERAGE:India's Best CEOs 2015
Globally, if VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) is the new normal, companies and their leaders have to deal with technological obsolescence and digitisation right across that spectrum.
India's Best CEOs 2015
- Arundhati Bhattacharya (Super Large Companies): State Bank Of India
- Aditya Puri (Large Companies): HDFC Bank
- Vineet Nayyar (Mid-Sized Companies): Tech Mahindra
- Siddhartha Lal (Small Companies/ Automobiles): Eicher Motors
- Salil Singhal (Agriculture & Allied): PI Industries
- Jayadev Galla (Auto Ancillaries): Amara Raja Batteries
- Shikha Sharma (Banking): Axis Bank
- KBS Anand (Chemicals): Asian Paints
- Arvind Uppal (Consumer Durables): Whirlpool Of India
- Sunil Duggal (FMCG): Dabur India
- N Chandrasekaran (IT & ITEs): Tata Consultancy Services
- Rajeev Jain (NBFC): Bajaj Finance
- S Varadarajan (Oil & Gas): Bharat Petroleum Corporation
- Vinita Gupta (Pharma & Healthcare): Lupin
- Sanjay Sagar (Power): JSW Energy
- Himanshu Kapania (Telecom): Idea Cellular
- Sunder Genomal (Textiles): Page Industries
- Rajeev Sharma (PSU): Rural Electrification Corporation
Local CEOs, however, have had to cope with peculiar India-specific challenges as well: regulatory and infrastructure bottlenecks; complex tax structures; high interest rates and a freeze on debt funding. As a result, in the industry, demand remains stagnant across sectors, capex has been on a decline and slow topline is exerting enormous pressure on companies struggling to prevent a slide in profits and profitability.
In the midst of all this, technological innovation has emerged not just as a saviour but also as one of the greatest levers for growth, even during a slowdown. It's hardly surprising then that a vast majority of the winners of the Business Today Best CEO study are those who transformed their organisations through technological interventions and innovations. And at no point does it manifest itself better than when the chips are down.
For instance, modern day banking is, perhaps, 95 per cent technology and 5 per cent cash. It's a moot point whether tomorrow's banking giants will be the banks as we know them or a tech firm such as an Apple, Google or Facebook. The rate at which the industry is transforming has catapulted five banking and financial services firms into the winners' list. Each one, for its own unique proposition.
While the Arundhati Bhattacharya-led State Bank of India remains an outlier, not just among PSUs but also within the banking sector, the giant has shown remarkable nimble footedness in new product and technology innovations, size, scale as well as in its reach in far flung areas of the country. Not to forget its corporate social responsibility initiatives. Bhattacharya, for that matter, also made it to the Champion of Champions - the overall winner across all categories.
Similarly, Aditya Puri-led HDFC Bank's consistent run in growth and profitability over the past five years is still to be emulated in the industry. Shikha Sharma's Axis Bank, Rajeev Jain-led Bajaj Finance and Rajeev Sharma-led Rural Electrification Corporation make up the other three representatives from the BFSI sector among the winners. In fact, the BFSI sector has been one of the earliest adopters of not just next generation enterprise technologies such as core banking platforms but also consumer technologies such as mobile apps, mobile transactions and mobile wallets. Next on their agenda is migrating the cash - that breeds black money - economy to digital money, even use of cheque leaflets into mobile-enabled e-cheques.
And while tech firms such as Tata Consultancy Services and Tech Mahindra and pharma giants such as Lupin have always represented technological intensity of their respective sectors, it's what has been achieved at firms such as lifestyle motorcycle maker Eicher Motors and Amara Raja Batteries that have been in the thick of things.
Modern day banking is, perhaps, 95 per cent technology and 5 per cent cash. The rate at which the industry is transforming has catapulted five banking and financial services firms into the winners' list. Each one, for its own unique proposition.At Eicher, CEO Siddhartha Lal has bounced back from what could have been imminent bankruptcy nearly a decade and a half ago to become the most profitable company in the entire automobile sector. That too, with just one brand - Royal Enfield. Lal revamped an old, but declining, product and transformed it into an aspirational product through new launches and product refreshments. In the past 1-2 years, however, Lal has been pushing Eicher to go global with a target to produce nine lakh bikes by 2017 against 3.5 lakh units today.
Jayadev Galla-led Amara Raja Batteries was yet another product and technology-led transformation that has made it the country's second largest battery maker by volume and the largest in the OE (original equipment) segment of the market. Galla's biggest move was four years ago when he piloted the introduction of sealed and maintenance-free batteries for the two-wheeler and home UPS segments to capture an unserved and under-served market.
Then there is Himanshu Kapania-led Idea Cellular which survived some traumatic initial years to now emerge as the third largest and the fastest growing telecom firm in the country. Idea, which wasted early years coping with a tug-of-war between its three key shareholders Birlas, Tatas and AT&T, has been on a fast growth path since the Aditya Birla Group bought out the other partners. So much so that it now threatens to overtake the country's second largest telecom firm Vodafone India.
Read what made these CEOs tick in the following pages. Meanwhile, in this - the third edition of the Business Today Best CEOs study - we have classified the companies into 4 sizes, instead of the 3 last year, for a better peer to peer comparison. These are: super large companies (with revenues in excess of Rs 1 lakh crore); large companies (between Rs 50,000 crore and Rs 1 lakh crore); mid-sized companies (Rs 10,000 crore-50,000 crore) and small companies (Rs 1,000 crore-10,000 crore). These are besides the 14 sectoral awards, a PSU award and the overall Champion of Champions.