New Delhi: Nine Indian companies have made it to the list of the top 10 most transparent companies from among emerging market firms, according to a report by Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog.
That statistic, which may seem ironic in a country where large-scale corporate scams and frauds are not uncommon, is, in reality, only to be expected, say analysts, because several of India’s blue-chip companies have adopted transparent and globally accepted and recognized accounting standards and processes, despite their ambivalent stand on corruption.
India’s largest telecom company Bharti Airtel Ltd leads the rankings, followed by Tata Communications Ltd. The other Indian companies in the top 10 are Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, followed by Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Tata Global Beverages Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd, Tata Steel Ltd, Wipro Ltd and Tata Chemicals Ltd. Infosys Ltd and Larsen & Toubro Ltd, companies that several analysts and experts rate highly on governance, do not feature in the top 10.
TI studied 100 emerging market companies and rated them in terms of their anti-corruption programmes, organizational transparency and country-specific reporting.
The high ranking of Indian companies needs to be seen in the context of their primary competition in the study—Chinese and Russian companies, whose books are largely opaque. ZTE Corp. is the only Chinese company to rank in the top 25 as against 12 Indian companies, including Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd, Infosys and Hindalco Industries Ltd.
Still, Indian companies have changed for the better, said Abdul Majeed, partner and national auto practice leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“Business has to make money but that should be done responsibly... That’s the change that we have noticed."
According to Majeed, Indian companies are beginning to look at a wider definition of stakeholders than just their direct investors.
Thirty-seven Chinese companies were evaluated, making them the survey’s biggest group, but they had the weakest overall performance. The three companies that scored zero are all Chinese: automaker Chery, appliance maker Galanz and auto parts maker Wanxiang Group. The list’s bottom 25 spots are also dominated by Chinese companies.
Of the 100 companies assessed in the report, 77 are from the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping.
The overall message from TI’s report was not heartening: “The findings of this report show that emerging market multinationals have work to do before they have in place the policies and programmes that are needed to help achieve the (United Nations) SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) target to reduce corruption and bribery."
And the top Indian companies have ground to cover, an expert said.
“One thing Indian companies tried to do is to embrace global practices in shareholder engagement. Some companies such as Wipro and Infosys have been more forthcoming on such issues," said Shriram Subramanian, founder, InGovern, a proxy-advisory firm.
Subramanian added that it is not clear if Indian companies have taken an in-principle stand against corruption.
“That is not well known," he added. And, on sustainability, “Indian companies have a distance to cover", he said.
But most of the Indian companies in the list are those aspiring to compete globally, Subramanian said. “There are a lot of companies that do not meet hygiene standards."
The performance of the top Indian companies in the TI study is also a result of the kind of investors they have, said another expert.
Amit Tandon, managing director of Institutional Investor Advisory Services, a Mumbai-based proxy advisory firm, said these investors expect a certain degree of disclosures.
“It’s a function of two factors—push and pull. The regulatory framework is the push factor. The pull factor is the extensive dealing of the top companies in the list with their investors."