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FY 12: a year of marked improvements in Indian ARs

Pravin K Ujjain

A leading international panelist of ReportWatch, London intrigued thus in 2009‘Indian Companies are making global headlines… hope we will soon start coming across appreciable Annual Reports from India’. For a country that opened its markets for global competition in 1995, immediately after initiating economic liberalization in 1991, I proudly supported global competitiveness of Indian enterprises and advocated for more time for Indian ARs to reach global levels.

Recently concluded AR season 2012 is signaling an encouraging sign for Indian companies. That of India Inc. getting its act together in recognising the importance of their Annual Reports and learning the nuances of doing it right, albeit in fragmented ways. Joining the bandwagon are companies of all hues, from large-cap ones like Tata Steel, Hindalco, Wipro, Reliance Industries to mid-cap ones like Marico, Hindustan Zinc, Hindustan Media Ventures and Rane Holdings (the last-two companies engaged AR Insight, the firm I head professionally). Then there are numerous small-cap companies that have been traditionally championing the art of driving more from their Annual Reports, at times driven by business compulsions.

So what are the key things that a good Annual Report does that these companies have started to get right? Broadly speaking, it can be put under three aspects. First is the communication strategy, then comes what to say and finally how to say.

Communication Strategy
Reports that achieve more are the ones that start with a definitive aim of what is to be achieved. Market leading companies from Aditya Birla group, Hindalco, AB Nuvo, Grasim Industries, Ultratech Cement; all have adopted a common theme and AR Cover. Titled Last Man Standing, First Man Forward, these Annual Reports make a good example for integrating through communication. Another great result of a well thought communication strategy is Infosys’s Annual Report 2012. The cover theme,Infosys 3.0, smartly establishes the fast changing business landscape and positions Infosys as a company that is changing for better.

What to say
A good Annual Report must identify one key message to deliver to its readers. Ashok Leyland’s AR 2012 does a good job with key message being ‘Ready and Reviving’. Across the narrative pages, it is well supported with facts like making new ventures profitable, transcending national boundaries, ramping up capacities and so on. It succeeds somewhat in establishing the readiness and the spirit of revival of the company. It would be really difficult for a company clocking half-century to say anything else as the key message. Coromandel International’s AR 2012 says exactly the same and says it very well. If acknowledging its oldest customers, oldest dealers, oldest shareholders and the firsts of employees was adding depth to company’s 50th anniversary celebration, sharing those moments with readers of Annual Report establishes the company as generous and acknowledging.

How to say
Best learnt and remembered lessons of our lives often are derived from moral stories that we studied as children. The fact that those stories are best remembered lies in the way they are weaved and presented. For being effective, corporate stories too are required to be told in a simple, engaging and interesting manner. Rane Holdings’ AR 2012 deploys Q&A form of dialogues in a very interesting manner. Annual Reports of Hindustan Zinc in a well thought magazine style and Hindustan Media Venture’s in a newspaper style evoke readership simply because those forms (formats) are closely weaved into our daily lives. It is far much easier to pick up anything resembling a newspaper or a magazine and start reading instead of picking up a monotonous brochure like document for an Annual Report.

To sum up
Kudos to India Inc. to finally getting on to acknowledge the power of their flagship corporate brochure called Annual Report. Keep trying and you will crack the myth of Indian enterprise lacking anything that their global counterparts possess. Happy narrating ’n happy reporting!

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Author's Articles from earlier issues
Issue 2 - Address Shareholders With a Personal Touch
Issue 1 - Management, Discussion and Analysis