FORTUNE INDIA celebrated the achievements of India’s Emerging Companies at ‘The Next 500: The Growth Drivers’ — a gala event at ITC Maurya, New Delhi. Fortune India’s The Next 500 companies, which represent the revenue range of ₹800 crore to ₹2,800 crore in the 2023 edition, created new records with cumulative topline and profits hitting record highs. While cumulative profit rose a phenomenal 256%, total income grew 41% year-on-year to ₹7.77 lakh crore.
This growth in emerging companies is only an indicator of the pace of growth of the Indian economy, among the fastest-growing large economies globally.
The evening began with a panel discussion — Making the Big League — where the heads of different industries shared their ideas and insights on what it takes to make it into “The Big League” of companies in India, their expansion plans, and territories they are eyeing to tap into. Aseem Joshi, CEO, India business, GMM Pfaudler, says: “A big part of being successful in this space is to know the pulse of the industry and figure out when you need to invest in capacity building and when you really need to hunker down and be more focused on margin and cost side of things.”
Manish Dabkara, chairman & MD, EKI Energy Services, which is in the carbon credit business spoke about how a “mandatory, carbon-compliance market, set to be implemented, will reopen new avenues for us.” Roopwant Singh, MD, Ahmedabad-based minerals and lignite mining company Gujarat Mineral Development Corp. (GMDC), talked about factors that propelled the company’s growth. “We had two critical years. There was huge demand for products we produced. Before that, we were not able to ramp up production. The team rose and ramped up production, and priced our product depending on capacity so it gets absorbed.”
Sanjay Sehgal, president, Vanity Case Group of Companies & Hindustan Foods, says the company started off as one factory, one product company, but owns 27 factories now. “And this happened over the last 10 years. We are the largest, diversified, and trusted FMCG contract manufacturer for both domestic and international brands.” And Vishal Mehta, Founder, Infibeam Avenues, a leading e-commerce and digital payments solutions provider, says in 2016, India’s fintech industry processed 5,000 crore transactions a year. Last year, we did 4.5 lakh crore transactions, which means what we did in the whole year (back then), now we do in three days.”
That was followed by two investor-investee sessions. The first one featured Vikram Chogle, managing director, Warburg Pincus, in conversation with Sameer Mehta and Aman Gupta, co-founders of boAt. Homegrown earwear audio-tech brand boAt is building blocks to become a Made-in-India global lifestyle brand and plans to tap the international market next year, says Aman Gupta, founder and CMO, boAt. “This year we will focus on India, which itself is a huge market, and going all out is next year’s vision. We will try and test smaller global markets such as Bangladesh and UAE,” he adds.
Co-founder Sameer Mehta says the company shifted majority of its manufacturing to India to get control over products and avail of the government’s proposed PLI scheme for wearable makers. “We set up a 2.5 lakh square feet factory in Noida and this year we are making around 30 million devices. Till last July, only 1% of our products were manufactured in India and today it has reached 75%,” says Mehta.
Speaking on the funding winter for Indian start-ups, Chogle of Warburg Pincus India says the firm has been investing in India for the past 25+ years through the ups and downs of market cycles. “We have always taken a very long-term approach to our businesses, so the view has not changed for the large part.”
In the second session, Ishaan Mittal, managing director, Peak XV Partners, mentioned how in 2016 when launching a new FMCG product line meant huge investment, Mamaearth opted for micro-marketing by targeting a small sliver of consumers via digital marketing. “It brought down the cost of innovation and the cost of access to consumers,” says Mittal, adding, the largest part of Mamaearth’s revenue came from their website.
On starting a baby care brand, Mamaearth founder Ghazal Alagh says she was looking for safe and toxin-free products for her son and couldn’t find any in India. “Ingredients used for adult skin were being used for baby skin as well. We were not getting what we were looking for. We said if nobody else is doing anything about it, there is something we can do,” recalls Ghazal. “When we started Mamaearth, our entire focus was on consumers. It was not on competition, not on category size, not on what somebody else is doing,” she adds. Co-founder Varun Alagh says, “Indian tropical weather does not require heavy creams. We need light hydration. If we have to build for India, we have to build for Indian consumers.”
The event culminated with awards to companies that performed well. There were three sets of awards — Sectoral Stars, Rising Stars and Leading Stars. The Sectoral Star Awards were given to companies that recorded the highest growth in their sector during FY22. The sectors included auto ancillaries, engineering, textiles, IT services, pharma and FMCG. The Rising Star awards were given to the five companies that rose the maximum number of ranks in this year’s The Next 500 list over 2022. The Leading Star Awards were given to the top three companies in the rankings this year.
The engineering award went to GMM Pfaudler, while the IT Services award went to Infibeam Avenues. Sastasundar Ventures was the winner in the NBFC category and Timken India was the winner among auto ancillaries. Devyani International got the award in FMCG category and Panacea Biotec for pharma. Siyaram Silk Mills was the winner in textiles.
The Rising Star awards went to IRCTC, PVR, HEG, Transcorp International and GMM Pfaudler. The Leading Star awards were given to Prince Pipes & Fittings and Meghmani Organics.
The winners were felicitated by chief guest, Anurag Singh Thakur, union minister for information & broadcasting and youth affairs & sports. Addressing the audience, Thakur says, “In the last nine years of the Modi government, we have leapt from an unstable economy to the fifth-largest economy in the world. The trajectories and targets we have set out under Modi government 2.0 are being achieved in a time-bound manner. Good governance is a journey of ideation, innovation, improvement and implementation. We are committed to the complete delivery of growth for India Inc. The future of India is linked to the fortune of its businesses and start-ups, and our citizen’s indomitable need to succeed. The future of India depends upon the foresightedness and far-sightedness of our innovators and inventors”.
In a break-out session, “Breaking the AI Frontier”, experts debated on the new wave of innovation where technology will adapt to suit an individual. “Artificial intelligence (AI) is steadily changing the way customers are analysing and understanding their businesses,” says Gagandeep Singh, director of sales at Salesforce. Udai Singh, president, global products & solutions and learning Delivery, NIIT, meanwhile, sees a huge range of applications of AI in learning. “One of the things that somebody who is learning a new language requires is a lot of practice. But they like to do that practice in a safe environment. That’s where things like conversational bots play a very important role,” says Singh. According to Biswajit Biswas, chief data scientist and general manager, Tata Elxsi, AI has really come into the mainstream. “AI is a new vector to accelerate the business. Every big company now has a strategy in place to adopt AI,” he adds. In healthcare, AI can help restructure unstructured data, says Munender Soperna, chief digital and information officer, Dr. Lal PathLabs. Parag Goyal, executive director of enterprise business Railtel, however, feels customers want service and it doesn’t matter to them whether the company uses AI or not.
GMDC was the state partner, while Salesforce was the technology partner for the event.