A huge pay gap between CEOs and other employees at Indian companies has come to the fore, with the biggest listed blue-chip firms doling out to their top executives salary packages of up to 1,200-times of their median employee remunerations. An analysis of remuneration disclosures made by top listed companies forming part of the blue-chip index Sensex - under directions of the capital markets regulator Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India) - shows that the pay packages of senior-most personnel such as CEOs and executive chairmen continue to remain high and rose further at most private sector firms during 2016-17.
On the contrary, the median employee remuneration fell or remained almost same during the last fiscal year, while the ratio of the top executive's pay to the median employee remuneration remained at astronomically high levels of hundreds-times in many cases.
The public sector companies show a totally different picture with their chiefs getting salaries of just about 3-4 times of their median employee remunerations. While the rules do not put any restrictions on the companies regarding how much more they want to pay their top executives vis-a-vis an average employee, the Sebi regulations require most listed companies to annually disclose various remuneration ratios to help the investors know about salary practices at the firms in which they have invested.
However, salaries of top executives, especially in case of those related to promoter groups, typically require the approval of the companies' boards, various committees and shareholders. Besides, the companies with inadequate profits need the government's approval for any excessive salaries paid to their top executives.
Restrictions on remuneration
As per the rules, the remuneration payable to any one managing director or whole-time director or manager, cannot exceed 5 per cent of the net profit of the company. If there is more than one such director, the remuneration cannot exceed 10 per cent of the net profit to all such directors and managers taken together.
Among the 30 Sensex firms, at least 15 have already disclosed an increase in the ratio of top executive pay with that of the median employee remuneration for 2016-17. Nine of the Sensex firms are yet to disclose these numbers and therefore the tally may go up.
Six Sensex companies have reported some decline in this ratio and these include Wipro (down from 260 times to 259 times), Infosys (283 times), Dr Reddy's Lab (from 312 times to 233 times) and Hero MotoCorp (from 755 times to 731 times).
The country's most-valued firm Reliance Industries did not disclose this ratio in its latest annual report published on the website. While its chief Mukesh Ambani has capped his pay at Rs. 15 crore for many years now, the ratio was high at 205 times in 2014-15.
Among other major Sensex firms, TCS saw the ratio between top-paid executive pay and the median employee remuneration rise to 515 times (from 460 times in previous year), while the same for Lupin stood at 1,263-times (though down from 1,317 times) for Chairman. The ratio for the CEO at Lupin was much lower at 217-times.
At Adani Ports, the ratio was down to 42 times in case of Gautam Adani (from 48 times), while the ratio was much higher at 169-times for another Whole Time Director. The same for Bajaj Auto was also high at 522 times.
Among banks, the ratio was highest for HDFC Bank's CEO Aditya Puri (whose pay package rose by 20 per cent to over Rs. 10 crore) where it rose from 179 to 187 times. Kotak Mahindra Bank saw the ratio rise from 42 to 48, ICICI from 100 to 112-times and Axis Bank from 72-times to 78-times. At HDFC Ltd, the ratio for the CEO Keki Mistry rose from 88 times to 92 times, while the same for Chairman Deepak Parekh was much less at 17 times.
L and T
Among the companies which are yet to report their latest numbers, Larsen and Toubro had disclosed a very high ratio of 1004-times for the fiscal 2005-16. At ITC, the ratio rose from 427 to 508 times in case of Y C Deveshwar, who has now given up his top executive role, but the ratio for the current executive chief was much lesser at 59 times. Deveshwar's total package rose by 58 per cent to Rs. 21.16 crore, including all the benefits. Other companies that saw an increase in the ratio included Bharti Airtel (to 366-times in 2016-17), Cipla (416 times), M&M (108 times), Tata Steel (94 times) and HUL (138 times).
Companies reported decline
In terms of the median employee remuneration, a few companies such as Wipro and Cipla recorded a decline and there was only a marginal rise of less than 5 per cent for several others such as Bharti Airtel, M&M, Bajaj Auto, TCS and HUL. The companies with an increase of over 10 per cent for median employee remuneration were a few and included Kotak Mahindra Bank, Adani Ports, HDFC Bank, HDFC Ltd and Lupin. Dr Reddy's Lab was among the very few to see a decline in the CEO pay, while it was unchanged for RIL and Adani Ports. The companies having seen a rise in the top executive pay included Wipro, TCS, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Axis Bank, Bajaj Auto, Tata Steel, M&M, Hero Motocorp, Lupin and Bharti Airtel. The overall key management pay rose significantly for Bharti Airtel, HDFC Bank, HDFC Ltd, TCS and Asian Paints.