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BW Businessworld

Image Perfect Companies

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In 2010, the term ‘spitting image' could have taken a different connotation as corporate India fought hard to defend its own image, or to tarnish that of its 
competitors. In the ensuing chaos, one could not deny the fact that apart from financial performance, image perception became a key result area, or sometimes 
a pinprick, for most business leaders.
So when Nielsen completed its 10th Corporate Image Monitor study, which measures people's perceptions of the image and reputation of 30 leading companies in 
India, it was time for many to take a reality check. The survey measured reputation on parameters such as social responsibility, emotional appeal, vision and 
leadership, products or services, work environment and financial performance among others. The selection of companies for the survey was based on their 
market capitalisation, sales and assets. A few companies were added on the basis of Nielsen's internal assessment. 
The study saw Tata Steel topping the latest round. At No. 2 was Tata Motors, followed by Aditya Birla Nuvo, Wipro and Bharti Airtel in the top five. 
"Corporate reputation is a summation of the organisation's past actions, experiences of the stakeholder as well as the communication in the eyes of the 
internal and external stakeholder," says Surekha Poddar, executive director, The Nielsen Company. 
Compared to the previous round, conducted in 2008, the current list saw L&T, HDFC and Bajaj Auto exit the top 10 and Aditya Birla Nuvo and Bharti Airtel make 
an entry in the top league. The other notable change was Infosys dropping seven places and Reliance Industries' drop of five spots. (See ‘The Perception 
Rolls'). 
(Image: /bw/images/Business/Corporate/tata-graphic-pu.jpg)
The stakeholders interviewed in the study included policy makers, influence groups, the financial community, investors, corporate executives and the general 
public. The views of 1,705 people from the top seven metros were taken into account.
"Companies that have invested in building a reputation as a reliable brand are poised to thrive in future as well as more likely to weather a crisis than a 
company that has not," says Poddar. Among the strongest elements driving corporate reputation are what companies offer to their customers — service levels 
and product quality. Other important factors are financial performance and future indicators such as its leadership and talent pool, adds Poddar. 
Innovation, pace of growth and the extent of media visibility also played a subliminal role in shaping reputations. While these are not directly cited by 
stakeholders to influence reputation, Nielsen reports firms that perform well on these aspects in general, tend to have stronger reputations. Certain factors 
such as vision and leadership are considered hygiene factors, a trait that leading corporates are expected to be strong on. 
According to the study, corporates with resilient brands are the ones who are able to build perception around factors that various stakeholders such as the 
general public, investors, policy makers and managerial talent consider important. For example, in the 2010 study, respondents felt that corporate social 
responsibility (CSR) activities should be concentrated around issues pertaining to public health and the environment. 
Prasad Sangameshwaran