Companies are showing a slow, steady rise in sales and profitability, chiefly owing to consumer demand for products and services, according to India Inc captains, united in the view that the worst part of the pandemic crisis is behind them.
At the same time, they want the government to focus on job creation, invest in infrastructure, and improve the lives of migrant workers, who faced hardship during the pandemic.
Chief executive officers (CEOs) said firms were yet again taking risk by investing in the country and overseas with Tata Group firm Titan even opening its first Tanishq showroom in Dubai last week.
Speaking at the Business Standard Awards Winners Conclave, conducted online for the first time due to the pandemic, the CEOs said their companies were spurred into activity mainly due to the consumer pull.
“Titan has done exceptionally well during the pandemic as our people came together to handle the crisis. If you ask me one secret sauce (for our success), it is our people,” said Bhaskar Bhat, former managing director (MD) of Titan and the winner of the CEO of The Year award for 2019.
“I think the worst is over —at least from the airline and retail perspectives. The country has gone through the pain and I hope the lockdown will not return. Titan has always been a restless company and exploration has been the constant in Titan,” said Bhat, who sits on several boards in Tata Group companies.
“Diwali sales are coming back everywhere. We can see companies are cutting costs, conserving cash, and focusing on consumers to get back on track,” Bhat said.
“There is an aspiration among Indian people to better the quality of their lives, which is the fundamental driver … The BS award represents what the company is all about. I dedicate the award to Titanians. We have built two wonder brands and had a great team of people.”
Hari Menon, founder and CEO of online retail firm Big Basket, which won the Start-up of the Year Award, said the pandemic gave the company a tremendous momentum.
“We pretty much advanced 15-18 months in top line, growth, and bottom line during this period,” said he.
“We are in great shape to take off from here and have had tremendous growth through the pandemic,” Menon said.
Vinati Saraf Mutreja, MD and CEO of Vinati Organics, the winner of the SME of the Year Award, said the company had seen demand for its products from all sectors except oil.
“We make specialty chemicals, and export 75 per cent of our products. We have done quite okay even during the pandemic,” she said.
“As we give essential services, we didn’t face any labour issue because it was local,” she said.
A K Jana, MD, Indraprastha Gas, the winner of the PSU of The Year Award, said the transport sector had come back to 90 per cent of its pre-Covid levels.
“People prefer not to travel by public transport. They prefer their own cars and domestic consumption has even gone up more than what was during pre-Covid times,” Jana said. Before Covid, there were 5,000 new CNG cars on the road every month. Today it is going up to 8,000, Jana said.
C S Ghosh, MD of Bandhan Bank, the winner of the Banker of the Year Award, said the bank had recruited 5,000 people during the pandemic. “In our bank, 95 per cent of my customers have started repaying. During the first two quarters of the year, there was no credit growth. The last two quarters always had credit growth. But now credit growth started before Puja, and is at 95 per cent of last year,” said Ghosh.
“Demand is coming from the public. That is the opportunity linking credit and deposit growth,” Ghosh said.