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Amore than five-fold rise in the share price of Avenue Supermarts Ltd, which runs DMart retail stores, since the company went public four years back, has not only brought riches to founder Radhakishan Damani and investors but also made chief executive Ignatius Navil Noronha the country’s richest professional manager with a net worth of 5,146 crore.

A 116% jump in shares of Avenue since 23 March last year means that Noronha’s 2.03% holding in India’s second-largest organized retailer is worth almost as much as the equity held by Deepinder Goyal in Zomato, the company he founded and led through a blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) recently. His 4.71% equity in the food delivery company is worth 5,318.5 crore.

Pecking order
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Pecking order

The past 18 months have been difficult for DMart, and for half a dozen other listed retailers, all of whom have been hurt by fewer people walking into stores, impacting both revenue and profitability. The rise of e-commerce has further forced these large-format stores to build their own delivery lines to help ship goods to people’s homes.

But investors continue to have faith in Damani, who owns 75% in Avenue Supermarts.

Other than Noronha, two other senior executives at Avenue have also become wealthy. Chief financial officer (CFO) Ramakant Baheti, whose 0.42% holding translates into 1,074 crore, and Elvin Machado, who oversees the retail business for half a dozen states and is worth 123.1 crore, are DMart’s other super-rich executives.

Tech Mahindra’s chief executive and managing director, C.P. Gurnani, owns 1.024.3 crore worth of shares and is the third professional executive to have a wealth of more than 1,000 crore.

The analysis is based on Mint’s review of filings by 75 top listed companies by market capitalization.

DMart, which has a market cap of $34.74 billion and runs 238 stores across the country, has taken a measured growth path since it was founded in 2002 and after it went public in 2017. However, unlike Infosys Ltd and Wipro Ltd in the 1990s, which made thousands of employees wealthy after founders N.R. Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji allocated stock to a wider set of people, DMart’s employee stock option plan has been smaller.

“DMart is an exception," said former Infosys chief financial officer V. Balakrishnan. “In its case, the executives happened to be at the right time at the right place. The lesson here for founders of startups in the consumer tech space such as Zomato is not to dilute too much when they are starting up. When it comes to the old-world economy, please remember, professional managers, like Mr Deepak Parekh, Renu Sud Karnad, and others, have worked for a really long time."

Noronha, 46, who worked at Hindustan Unilever before being hired by Damani in 2004, took over as the CEO in 2007.

The executive keeps a low profile and is rarely seen outside of company events.

Noronha earned a little more than 100 crore in salary and sale of shares in the past decade, according to the Avenue Supermarts filings over the last four years reviewed by Mint.


Varun Sood

Varun Sood is a business journalist writing on corporate affairs for the last fifteen years. He also writes a weekly newsletter, TWICH+ on the largest technology services companies. He is based in Bangalore. Varun's first book, Azim Premji: The Man Beyond the Billions, was brought out by HarperCollins in October 2020.
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