Container Corporation of India does not fit the common description of a government undertaking. It is the market leader and the most profitable player in a sector which has 15 competitors including prominent business houses. It has a huge shareholding by foreign institutional investors, probably the highest among PSUs. And it holds the record in the logistics sector for per employee productivity. For the CFO this is a tough environment to work in where, while the expectations are pegged at high levels that prevail in the private sector, the working strategies have to satisfy government guidelines and the concept of doing business with the taxpayer's money. Having a private sector shareholding of 37 per cent and serving the government at the same time is as good or bad as serving two masters.
This is not much different from tightrope walking. Add to this the turbulent business environment during the past four years wherein the tightrope walking got more perilous with the rope itself swaying dangerously in the stormy world of international trade, making the experience most challenging yet stimulating. Hence, the success that followed as evident from the consistent financials and the launching of a record number of new projects at a rate unprecedented in the sector has been all the more satisfying. The company saw a phase when its burgeoning cash reserves attracted too much attention and it became a challenge to keep money from being diverted to areas that would have found no favour with the private shareholder. A fine balancing act kept the company's finances in an area that was agreeable to both private and government shareholders.