I have a confession to make. Many moons ago, I studied to be an accountant and - despite one of the world's toughest entry barriers with single-digit pass rates in the chartered accountancy examinations - dreamt of crunching numbers while boning up on 'double-entry bookkeeping' and the mysteries of profit and loss. But the world of journalism proved more alluring, and I'm sure some accountants I know must mutter when they see me: "There but for the grace of God, go I."
Still, I can't help feeling very proud that Business Today is honouring India's best Chief Financial Officers for the fifth time, the third year in a row in partnership with YES Bank, and has added a new and important award for the Best Woman CFO this year. It is worth noting that the Best CFOs Awards in 2010 and 2011 were handed out by no less than India's CFO, Pranab Mukherjee.
The search for winners across 10 categories was extremely rigorous and meticulous and we assembled a stellar jury who gave no quarter (pardon the pun) in analysing financials across three years. The totemic BT500 listing of India's most valuable companies formed the database, and for the Woman CFO category the search was expanded to the full BT1000 list.
Beyond the numbers, I've always wondered: does only red ink flow through the veins of a CFO? As our profile of this year's overall winner, Tata Motors CFO Chandrasekaran Ramakrishnan, it's also music and sambhar. I asked Ramakrishnan, who grew up in Madurai, what gave him the greatest satisfaction, and one of the three points he listed was the 'emotional connect', the passion and excitement for the industry he is in. Not surprising considering 'CR' has been at Tata Motors for 32 years. The other two buzz points? Providing the 'blood-flow' which makes the business go - financials, funding, keeping an eye on costs and expenses; and, of course, the 'pride and personal satisfaction' of working for a business house like the Tatas with its values. Little wonder that Ramakrishnan won in two categories.
Fittingly, as happened when we published last year's Best CFOs list, this time too we coincide with the BT Business Confidence Survey. Conducted by the Centre for Forecasting & Research (C fore), the fifth quarterly survey since its launch last year showed a surprising uptick in confidence. But the outlook for the second quarter was gloomier, not least because of the Budget delivered by Mr Mukherjee in mid-March.
Interestingly, the Harvard Business Review commissioned a South Asia Competitiveness Survey to coincide with its March issue which focused on American competitiveness. Key takeaways from that survey: