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BW Businessworld

The Issue About Big Business

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The BW Real 500 started out over a decade ago as an effort to list, and compare, India’s biggest companies. In the first few years, we looked only at two parameters — asset base and turnover. This allowed us to get a snapshot of both how a company was doing in its market as well as the kind of business it was in. Manufacturing companies were generally asset rich. Companies in the services sector were mostly asset light, but often boasted high revenues and high revenue growth.
To make the list comprehensive, we looked at data from firms that were listed on stockmarkets as also data reported by unlisted companies. In the initial years, data on unlisted companies often proved difficult to come by but, over time, as systems improved and financial reporting norms became more stringent, things became more streamlined. From the very beginning, the BW Real 500 became a reader favourite and we received many letters suggesting improvements. We incorporated all the suggestions that were practically possible, and the BW Real 500 grew in size, as did the companies listed in it.
We added a new list for average market capitalisation, and also compiled rankings of the top companies by other parameters. Thus, we have companies by profits, profit margins, debt, debt-equity ratio, earnings per share and also by return on networth, among others.
In the last few years, the size of the BW Real 500 has grown to the extent that it is now impossible to accommodate all of it in the magazine. As a result, we have started putting a lot of the data on our website, So while the Top 500 companies by size figure in the issue, the list of the Top 1000 is on our website.
While going through the tables in this year’s exercise, three things struck me. One, the past year has been really bad for the corporate sector — both asset creation as well as revenue growth have been slow. Two, despite the fact that the Indian economy has been sluggish for the past five years, the best companies have notched up impressive growth. Many of the big companies have grown three to five times in the past five years. And, finally, though everyone is worried about the debt on their books, there are still quite a few debt-free companies in the Top 500.
The BW Real 500 is an effort in which the entire BW  | Businessworld team gets involved along with our data partners Ace Equity. But while everyone contributed to the issue, four people — executive editor Rajeev Dubey, deputy editor Ashok Raaj, senior assistant editor Shailesh Menon and assistant editor Jinoy Jose P. — were the ones who spent many a sleepless night in bringing out this issue.
Twitter: @prosenjitdatta

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 04-11-2013)