The venue: The sprawling ITC Grand Chola
The attendees: A good cross section of business leaders, executives and media persons.
The occasion: Shriram-Sanlam awards for excellence in financial journalism.
ARUN DUGGAL, Chairman-Shriram Capital Ltd, explained the awards presented under three categories: One, a Lifetime Achievement Award to a journalist’s contribution in the field of financial journalism over three decades; two, an award for powerful writing on macro economic issues; three, a special Hall of Fame award.
It was the first time that such honours were extended to print media financial journalists for excellence. The chief guest, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, complimented the Shriram Group for recognising excellence in financial journalism. He presented a citation and a Rs 2.5 lakh cash award to Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, Consultant Editor, The Economic Times, for life time achievement; to P A Seshan, former Financial and Commercial Editor, The Hindu, who will be completing 100 years in July, with the Hall of Fame award (Rs 1.5 lakh) and Raghu Mohan of Business World (Rs 1.0 lakh) for his article on economic policy and macro economic issues.
Natural optimists and born pessimists
The function lasted for just under an hour. Chidambaram categorised financial journalists as natural optimists and born pessimists. He pointed to the need for more balanced views and a higher degree of equanimity in presenting and analysing news. He advised journalists not to belittle India’s growth: “no one can stop India from growing. There are untapped resources. With a large young population there is bound to be demand for goods and services. There is a strong entrepreneurial class and there is an aspirational generation. Indian economy will grow over the next 30-40 years till her population ages.”
“Regardless of the government, India will grow at 5-6 per cent. Good governance can assure this. The government should help in more efficient use of money and deliver projects more effectively. This will accelerate growth to 8-9 per cent. The kingdom of journalism needs moderation, should not belittle India’s growth prospects,” said the Finance Minister.
Shriram Group invited the Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR) to partner it in this exercise and also to set up an independent jury of known experts to select the winners of the awards. The jury comprised of Gopal Srinivasan, CMD, TVS Capital, Nachiket Mor, Chairman, CARE India; Srinivasan K Swamy, CMD, R K Swamy; Ashu Suyash, CEO, L&T Mutual Fund and Adit Jain, Chairman, IMA Asia.
The Shriram Group is the fastest growing business conglomerate of South India with assets funded in excess of Rs 60,000 crore. Founder-Chairman R Thyagarajan and his senior colleagues Arun Duggal, Akhila Srinivasan, G S Sundararajan, R Sridhar and R Kannan, have been known for maintaining close rapport with financial journalists.
Unlike the normal over-sensitive southern business leaders and politicians, the Shriram Group has been liberal in appreciating even critical reviews of performance. Over the last decade, the group has been registering spectacular growth and has emerged as a tall leader in financial services. Significantly, the life insurance and general insurance companies have been earning profits right from inception.
Newspapers depend heavily on advertisements. Little wonder advertisers enjoy enormous power. The southern business leader is happy maintaining a distance from journalists and is not too interested in any review of performance, good or bad. Especially in this light, the decision of the Shriram Group to install this award is welcome.
The finance minister suggested including journalists from the TV medium also. There are a few issues that must have weighed with the group: the relative unconcern of the regional TV medium with serious economic issues. Also news channels are Delhi-centric and Delhi-dominated with negligible coverage of economic issues of south.