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BW Businessworld

Leading From The Front

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Ever since the indian economy was opened to global competition two decades ago, information technology companies have been India's flagbearers. Today, many of these companies are global leaders. The Businessworld INFOCOM ICT Awards were instituted to recognise the contribution of these companies. We looked at growth, profits & profitability and innovation across the three ICT categories: information technology; communications; and media & entertainment, over the last three fiscal years. Over the next few pages, we provide a glimpse of the winners in each of the categories.

N. Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD, TCS

India's largest software services company Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has grown at a compound annual growth rate of close to 17 per cent over the past three years. TCS now straddles the entire spectrum of consulting to implementation in IT and IT- enabled services.

TCS won the Businessworld Infocom ICT award in all the three categories in the information technology sector.

TCS practises what it calls Co-Innovation Network (COIN) with customers, alliance partners, research and academic institutions. With more than 1,000 employees in core R&D and nearly 300 patent applications, TCS relies on COIN to give it an edge in the marketplace.

The company has developed an interactive voice response system, mKrishi, which uses the inexpensive data channel for transferring content. This platform allows farmers to send queries as well as essential information via their mobile phones to experts who remotely and seamlessly guide them on farming practices. These can include information on micro climate, local mandi price as well as personalised solutions.

The mKrishi service has been launched across the country. TCS has also planned a few international pilots.

Subhash Chandra
(BW Pic By Subhabrata Das)

Subhash Chandra, Chairman & promoter, Essel

Media conglomerate, the zee group, has won  the Businessworld INFOCOM ICT Award for sustained growth. The media companies under the Zee banner have displayed sharp growth, a tight leash on expenditure and healthy profits year after year. Over the last three years, Zee Group saw its sales turnover expand from Rs 2,686 crore in FY2009 to Rs 4,070 in FY2011, a CAGR of nearly 15 per cent. Each of the Zee companies has shown strong growth.

The credit for this goes to chairman and promoter, Subhash Chandra, who will be celebrating 20 years as a media mogul this year. In 1992, using his earnings from rice exports, Chandra launched the first private television broadcasting company in partnership with STAR TV in Hong Kong. Zee TV, as an entertainment channel, was Chandra's first big success story.

Chandra has experimented with everything in media. He has dabbled with communication satellites, made Bollywood movies, bought cricket rights and sports channels, tried to acquire news agency UNI and has even ventured into print with the newspaper DNA. Not everything has been as successful as his television ventures; but he has dared to dream and experiment.

Raghav Bahl
(BW Pic By Tribhuwan Sharma)

Raghav Bahl, Managing director, Network18

The Network18 group, though smaller than Zee, has followed a similar trajectory for growth, and hence emerged as a joint winner of the ICT Awards. The group has interests in television, Internet, e-commerce, magazines, mobile content and allied businesses.

The company has restructured, with TV18 being the umbrella for all its broadcast ventures, that includes 10 news and entertainment channels. Earlier, the channels were distributed over two listed entities; some of them like CNBC were held by TV18 while others, including the entertainment channel Colors, were under the IBN18 banner.

Starting as a content provider for Doordashan and BBC in the early 1990s, Raghav Bahl launched business channel, ABNi, from Singapore which soon fell apart. Later, his partnership with CNBC became a success story. Due to regulatory restraints, CNBC sold its holding to the TV18 Group. That saw Bahl join the ranks of media broadcasters.

With recessionary conditions, the company's debt burden became huge. However, with the recent merger proposal with ETV and the planned infusion of Rs 1,700 crore through a Mukesh Ambani trust, brighter days may be on the horizon.

Ronnie Screwvala
(BW pic by Subhabrata Das)

RONNIE SCREWVALA,CEO and founder chairman,
UTV Software Communications

utv software communications won the Businessworld INFOCOM ICT Award for the media and entertainment sector in the profits and profitability category. UTV is spread over five verticals: broadcasting, gaming and games content, motion pictures, interactive and television content. In a sector that has been hit hard by the economic slowdown, UTV has shown both steady growth and an increase in profits. While the company's sales turnover jumped 40 per cent to Rs 930 crore in FY2011 from Rs 664 crore in the previous year, profit after tax has grown from Rs 29 crore in FY2009 to Rs 135.5 crore in FY2011, at a whopping compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 207 per cent over three years.

Ronnie Screwvala, CEO and chairman  of UTV, started out with the cable television business in Mumbai. In 1990, after UTV was founded, he moved into film production, movie distribution, family-oriented television channels and, later, web content. After 2005 when UTV became a publicly traded company, it grew rapidly. Subsequently, UTV entered the big league as a movie production house and a television broadcaster.
Starting with the Aamir Khan hit, Rang De Basanti, UTV has produced a string of blockbusters including Raajneeti, Dev.D and No One Killed Jessica. Today, motion pictures is its largest vertical, accounting for Rs 454 crore in sales, almost half its revenue in FY2011. The company has brought in a studio culture in Bollywood, which includes signing of completion bonds with actors. This has given a fillip to an industry steeped in an informal style of functioning. A professionalised approach to movie making is UTVs biggest contribution to Bollywood. Part of the reason for the company's evolution to the Hollywood-studio mould is its close working and structural ties with the Walt Disney Company. Over the years, Disney has steadily bought into UTV Software. Last July, after buying out Screwvala's stake, Disney now
has controlling equity in the company.

The synergy between entertainment giant Disney and UTV is obvious. Screwvala has assumed charge as MD of Walt Disney India, and he is in the process of integrating the businesses of the two companies.

Sunil Bharti Mittal
(BW pic by Bivash Banerjee)


It was almost 19 years after he got into business that Sunil Bharti Mittal ventured into mobile telephony. With over 162 million mobile subscribers in India and another 44 million across 17 African countries, Bharti Airtel is among the top five telecom service providers globally, by subscribers.

Bharti Airtel won the Businessworld Infocom ICT award for revenue growth in the telecommunications sector.
While the company's subscriber base was growing, revenue growth posed a problem. Cut-throat competition in the Indian telecom sector, which has caused tariffs to plummet and  revenues to shrink, forced Bharti to try alternative options. To increase revenues, Bharti went to Africa. The average revenue per user in Africa at $7 is almost 75 per cent more than the $4.2 in India.

Bharti's Africa opertaions have ensured that the company continues to lead in the Indian market. Bharti recorded a CAGR of 13.79 per cent in its revenues over the three-year period ending FY2011. In the quarter ending December 2011, Bharti recorded revenues of Rs 18,467 crore, a 17 per cent increase over the same period in 2010. Profits, however, are yet to pick up.

Raj Karan


With six billion-plus mobile subscribers, almost 86 per cent of the world's population has access to mobile services. As consumers across the world move from pure voice to data services, operators are gearing up to offer  services that attract more customers. Innovation, therefore, is critical.

Stay In Touch (SINT) Mobile along with Tata DOCOMO won the Businessworld Infocom ICT award for innovation in telecom.
 CEO Raj Karan, a former management consultant, leads the SINT team that offers a location-based service called Offers Near Me to Tata DOCOMO subscribers in Andhra Pradesh. Once the consumer subscribes to the service, he can select from various categories including restaurants, cinemas and coffee shops, to receive alerts on discount coupons and information from such businesses in and around the exact location that they are in.

The service is free and is currently available in and around Hyderabad. Over the year, it is expected to be rolled out in other markets across the country.

Initial results have shown significant conversion rates when SINT Mobile used location data to promote local brands targeting users. The service is a means to generate additional revenue for telecom service providers from advertisers and retailers.  

N.R. Narayana Murthy
(BW pic by Sanjay Sakaria)

N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman emeritus, Infosys

India's Information Technology (IT) industry  which hit $100 billion in revenues this year, including $69 billion in exports, owes a lot to a handful of visionaries. Amongst them are the likes of F. C. Kohli, S. Ramadorai, Azim Premji, Ashok Soota, Shiv Nadar, and, most would agree, N.R. Narayana Murthy.

Murthy won the Businessworld Infocom ICT Lifetime Achievement Award.

The financial success of Infosys is one reason for the respect that Murthy commands. The other is the corporate governance practices which he introduced in the company. Many of the things that Infosys did, such as sharing wealth through an employee stock option plan, guiding the market on what to expect not just for the next quarter but the next year, investing in building a talent pool, sharing best practices and setting benchmarks for information disclosure, were emulated by its competitors in the industry.

His insistence on separation of ownership and management (no family member of the founders work at Infosys), giving everybody an opportunity to share the wealth created (the co-founders collectively own just about a sixth of the company) and bringing in a high degree of transparency in decision-making have worked to Infosys' advantage.

Three decades after setting up Infosys, Murthy stepped down as chairman in August 2011. But he continues to advise and guide the company as chairman emeritus. He has received several awards including the Padma Vibhushan, Commander of the Order of the British Empire and the French Légion d'honneur.

Murthy is now involved in his second act: funding and mentoring India's next generation of entrepreneurs through investment fund Catamaran Ventures. He operates his fund from ‘Tathagatha', an aptly named 2-storied bungalow in Jayanagar, Bangalore. Tathagatha, which is the name Buddha uses in the scriptures, paradoxically means both ‘one who has thus gone' (tatha-gata) and ‘one who has thus come' (tatha-agata).

With the first phase of Murthy's career, in which he built India's technology industry, behind him, his second act will be watched with a lot of interest.

The process began with database company ace equity pulling out figures on growth and profits for companies in the ICT sectors over the last three financial years (2008-09 to 2010-11) along with their three-year compound annual  growth rate (CAGR). Based on the CAGR growth, a list of top 10 companies was drawn in each of the three categories — information technology, communications and media & entertainment — for both revenue growth and profits & profitability. To identify the innovation in the ICT sector we sought applications from companies. More than 50 companies responded. The bulk of the applications were in the IT category. The applications were vetted by an external panel to draw up a shortlist. Based on this, the jury was provided a docket on growth & profitability across the categories along with the innovations.

The jury comprising Nripendra Misra, former chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India; Sanjeev Aggarwal. senior managing director,  Helion Advisors; Arun Arora, chairman, Edvance Pre-Schools; and Smita Jha, consulting head, entertainment & media, at PricewaterhouseCoopers, decided on the winners. The jury also identified the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 16-04-2012)