Business

United Spirits leaves IT giant Infosys & most FMCG biggies behind on crorepati count

MUMBAI: United Spirits may not be among the most popular destinations for jobseekers, but the country’s largest spirits maker has more crorepatis in its ranks than IT giant Infosys and all FMCG companies except Hindustan Unilever. As many as 56 executives at United Spirits (USL) took home more than Rs 1 crore in salary in the year ended March — against 52 in the previous year — according to the firm’s annual report. This despite managing director Anand Kripalu describing FY17 as “the single-most challenging year from a regulatory perspective”. Consumer goods giant Hindustan Unilever, which had 125 executives taking home more than Rs 1 crore in salaries last year, and IT major Wipro, with 51 such people, both saw the number of crorepatis shrink from the previous year. Diageo, the world’s largest spirits maker that owns United Spirits, is looking to attract and retain talent in India as it pushes hard to build up sales and fend off competition in what’s emerging as a key market, experts said. “Alcobev as an industry has similar business structures to FMCG, but traditionally has not been an attractive industry for talent,” said Anandorup Ghose, partner at HR consultancy Aon Hewitt India. “Consequently it tends to offer higher pay levels or premium to attract talent.” The maker of McDowell’s No.1and Antiquity whisky saw its sales grow 4% and net profit 39% in FY17. The results have come in the face of a very subdued economic environment and several regulatory changes “beginning with the surprise announcement of total prohibition in Bihar, coping with the aftermath of demonetisation and culminating in the Supreme Court banning the sale of alcohol near national and state highways”, Kripalu said in the firm’s annual report. Most liquor companies battled prohibition and regulatory hurdles during the year, forcing overall market to decline 2%, the industry’s worst performance in more than a decade. LOOSENING PURSE STRINGS An HR consultant who declined to be identified said that when embattled businessman Vijay Mallya was at the helm at USL, there were few people who were paid very high salaries. “Now that USL is being run more professionally and management is spread out, the number of people earning more has gradually gone up,” the person said. In fact, more than 20 executives who took home eight-figure salary last year joined United Spirits in the past three years after Kripalu took the helm. A headhunter said the spirits business is now “far more acceptable” than before among jobseekers. “There may be temporary setbacks because of policy changes, but the liquor business is here to stay and India as a market will continue to grow,” said the person who is familiar with USL. Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker Scotch and Smirnoff vodka, bought a controlling stake in USL from Mallya in July 2013 and later raised its holding to 55%. The Indian unit of Diageo filed multiple complaints against Mallya after inquiries uncovered “improper transactions” worth Rs 1,225.30 crore. USL alleged that Mallya had diverted the funds to nearly half a dozen companies in which he had a direct or indirect interest, mostly located in tax havens. For Diageo, India accounts for almost 40% of its sales volume and 9% of net sales. India is the largest whisky market in the world, selling almost 200 million cases.
Source: ET

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