Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) today are like doctors who have just weathered a prolonged medical emergency. From the times of the Black Death-the plague pandemic that swept Europe in the 14th century-to the recent H1N1 flu, epidemics test the ability of the best trained doctors and fundamentally challenge the conventional wisdom of the times. The financial crisis that engulfed the world for most of 2008 and 2009 placed CFOS in a similar situation.
Overnight, some of the most acclaimed financial strategies and innovations became a terrible mistake. Well thought-out acquisitions suddenly became over-ambitious buying binges. Just like the doctors who witness the horror of death around them but fight for the day when the world will emerge out of the pandemic wiser and healthier, CFOs, too, witnessed the unprecedented destruction of wealth and fought for wealthier times to come. Thankfully such a time is already upon us-by and large.
This is what makes our third annual issue on India's best CFOs very special. Revamped and expanded, in partnership with YES Bank, this year's study evaluates CFO performance on criteria specifically introduced to measure ability to manage the financial crisis. So, among the 14 best CFOs that enter the BT hall of fame this year are those who excelled on parameters like "Successful Management of Financial Crisis", "Best Transformation Agent" and "Best Management of Financial Complexity".
There is no better way to understand a crisis than through the experience of those who bore the brunt of it. Our cover story attempts to give you exactly this. The best financial brains of India Inc. recount how they handled the outbreak of wild and sudden currency swings, overnight disappearance of demand (or supply) and virtual freezing of financial markets-all at the same time. There are stories of CFOs buying companies when others were selling to survive. Now that the pandemic has passed, the system isn't just healthier-it's very different from what it was in the past.
Surviving a crisis is no guarantee of future health. This is clear from the experience of Paramount Airways. The airline that till recently seemed to have braved the aviation crisis quite exceptionally, has now flown itself into serious turbulence. We bring you an exclusive investigation. Turning a problem into profitable business opportunity is classic entrepreneurship. Right now, India is a hotbed for such entrepreneurial ventures. We bring you one such profile. May be it will inspire you to look for silver linings in some of the problems around you.