The shadow of Covid-19 continues to hang over India Inc. as companies across sectors navigate the impact of the pandemic. However, that’s not visible in this year’s Fortune India 500 list, which is based on FY20 numbers. But even without the pandemic there are enough pain points, evidence that FY20 was hardly a happy year for Corporate India.
Sample this: The total profit of the 2020 Fortune India 500 companies declined nearly 22% from the year-ago period to around ₹3.6 lakh crore. The only time the list had a lower profit figure than this, at ₹3.3 lakh crore, was in the year the list began—2010, which was the first full fiscal year (FY10) since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. And there is a simple reason behind such a staggering fall in profits this year: some of India’s largest companies reported losses. For example, telecom majors Vodafone Idea (No. 40 on the list) and Bharti Airtel (No. 20) reported losses of ₹73,878 crore and ₹32,183 crore, respectively, as they had to make provisions for adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues.
Then there were the crisis-hit financial institutions, YES Bank (No. 47; with losses of ₹16,433 crore) and Dewan Housing Finance (No. 151; ₹13,456 crore), which are stories in themselves. Similarly, we have the example of IDBI Bank (No. 61) which reported a loss of ₹12,835 crore because it was hit by bad loans. Tata Motors (No. 6; ₹12,071 crore), reeling under sector-specific woes and the weak performance of its U.K. subsidiary Jaguar Land Rover, rounded off the list of the top six loss-makers. These six companies accounted for more than 70% of the cumulative losses of ₹2.3 lakh crore racked up by 81 firms. The balance 419 companies made a cumulative profit of ₹5.8 lakh crore.
This year’s Fortune India 500 list—which sources data from CapitalinePlus—also saw a 1.4% decline in revenue over the previous year, at ₹90.5 lakh crore. A key reason for this fall in revenue was the exit of 44 companies from the list. These included six major public sector banks (Syndicate Bank, Andhra Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Allahabad Bank, Corporation Bank, and United Bank of India)—which accounted for a cumulative revenue of a shade over ₹1 lakh crore on the 2019 list. They had to depart from the rankings as they were merged with other state-run banks.
Also missing from the list were six unlisted auto companies—Hyundai Motor, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, Honda Cars, Renault India, Skoda Auto India, and TAFE Motors—which had a cumulative revenue of more than ₹1 lakh crore on the 2019 list. They exited the list owing to the non-availability of data. The net result of this churn was that the 500th company on this year’s list, IOL Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, reported revenue of ₹1,889.5 crore, the first time since 2017 that the turnover figure of the last firm on the list fell below the ₹2,000-crore mark.
The 44 companies that replaced the exiting firms included 31 from this year’s Fortune India Next 500 list (the list is based on FY19 data). These 31 firms had a cumulative revenue and profit of ₹75,624 crore and ₹4,793 crore, respectively, accounting for 0.85% and 1.35%, respectively, of this year’s total revenue and profit of the 500 firms.
The Fortune India 500 list—which is a barometer of corporate India’s performance— is all about size. But the list is also uneven, and this becomes apparent when one looks at the 500 companies through the prism of their revenue clusters. So, there are 38 companies which reported a revenue of more than ₹50,000 crore each; these accounted for almost 60% of the total revenue of this year’s list. In contrast, 139 companies reported a revenue of less than ₹3,000 crore each, which added up to just under 4% of the total revenue.
Another way to look at this is by examining the eight oil and gas companies on the list, which together account for about 22% and a shade below 20% of the total revenue and profit, respectively. Reliance Industries—the No. 1 company on the list since last year—leads the pack, accounting for 7% and 11% of the total revenue and profit, respectively.
In terms of sectors, manufacturing, with 303 companies, accounted for 62% of the total revenue, and 76% of the total profit. The services sector, with 145 companies, contributed 33% of the total revenue and 19% of the total profit.
Examining the ownership pattern of the Fortune India 500 firms, one finds that foreign-owned, government-owned, and private companies accounted for 6%, 32%, and 62% of the total revenue respectively, and 14%, 27%, and 59%, respectively, of the total profit. In terms of equity dividend, government-owned and private companies are neck and neck with 45% share each, while the foreign-owned companies accounted for 9%.
The total equity dividend paid by the 500 firms went up by 18%, as 154 companies paid out ₹73,942 crore. The list considers only those companies that paid dividend before the end of their fiscal.
But employees didn’t have much reason to cheer. Compared to a 7% annual growth at ₹8.9 lakh crore in 2019, employee costs of the 500 companies grew by just 5% in 2020, to ₹9.3 lakh crore.
With the pandemic causing havoc for companies in 2020, the FY21 figures aren’t expected to be a pretty sight. The Covid-19 pain will be reflected in the 2021 Fortune India 500 list as it tests the biggest and the mightiest names in Corporate India like never before.
This story appeared in the December 2020 issue of the magazine.