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Mettle of the Best CEOs

As one of history's most disruptive and dreaded year draws to a close, we look forward to 2021 with renewed hope and excitement. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, with gratitude
twitter-logoRajeev Dubey | Print Edition: January 10, 2021
Mettle of the Best CEOs
Rajeev Dubey, Editor, Business Today

2020 was indeed a reset year - as much for India Inc. as it was for the world. It reset work as WFH got a new dimension. It rebooted strategies as firms had to scramble to deal with lockdowns and unlockdowns. It recast technologies, giving rise to new winners. It has reset education, healthcare, travel & tourism, financial services, insurance and a host of other sectors. All these put to test the mettle of the country's best CEOs and their leadership skills.

So when this year's Business Today jury - comprising Ashu Suyash, MD & CEO, Crisil; Cyril Shroff, Managing Partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas; Harsh Goenka, Chairman, RPG Enterprises; Raamdeo Agrawal, Chairman, Motilal Oswal Financial Services and Zarin Daruwala, CEO, Standard Chartered India - met to select the winners of Best CEOs of India Inc. they looked not just at the past but also the present. Especially, the Corona times.

Their choice of the 'Champion of Champions' for 2020, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, reflects a pick who has made the elephant dance, changing the course of India's largest firm from a largely B2B enterprise into a predominantly B2C firm in just three-four years, spawning two giant new businesses in telecom and retail. Both are market leaders in their sectors.

K.V. Kamath, the institution builder got the jury's nod for Lifetime Achievement, having built ICICI into a financial services behemoth before founding New Development Bank, the BRICS Bank in Shanghai. For a while now, Kamath is rumoured to be in the running for a significant role in the Union Cabinet.

And even though the Best CEOs in this issue were rated on their past three years' performance until FY20, the direction they have provided to their respective organisations has already set the pace for 2021 and beyond.

HUL's Sanjiv Mehta has steered the FMCG giant towards recognising the many India's within India. It turned out to be a key differentiator. Another FMCG major Nestle's CEO Suresh Narayanan has refocused what was largely an urban-market organisation into India's hinterland, expanding Nestle's distribution points by one-third to 12,000 within two years, making a Bareilly or Gorakhpur as critical for the firm as the metros. The number of villages catered has trebled to 90,000 in a year with a target to take it to 1.20 lakh.

Two of India's largest IT firms - TCS and HCL Technologies - made the cut with their enterprising CEOs Rajesh Gopinathan and C Vijayakumar coming into their own as they filled the shoes of their illustrious predecessors - N. Chandrasekaran and Shiv Nadar - with remarkable ease. Both pursued digital transformation at their firms to deliver record growth. While stock markets have elevated TCS to India's second most valued firm behind Reliance, HCL Tech overtook Wipro to emerge as India's third largest IT firm in 2019. And these are just a few of the success stories that await you in the following pages.

Meanwhile, as one of history's most disruptive and dreaded year draws to a close, we look forward to 2021 with renewed hope and excitement. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, with gratitude. Your patronising Business Today means the world to us.

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