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World's 20 most admired companies

July 23, 2013 11:04 IST

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” - Warren Buffett

Among the scores of top-rung companies across various sectors, these 20 have won the hearts of people across the globe. 

While some are recognised for their exceptional products, others have earned a repute for excellent services.

Hay Group has tied up with Fortune magazine since 1997 to conduct a survey to discover some of the world’s most admired and successful companies.

Take a look at the world’s 20 most admired companies…

World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Security guards and staff stand at the entrance of an Apple store during the release of iPhone 5 in Beijing's Wangfujing shopping district.
Photographs: Petar Kujundzic/Reuters


Rank: 1

Apple has topped the Fortune list for the sixth consecutive year.

Though the company saw its shares plummet recently, with a $13 billion in net income in the last quarter, Apple has proved that it remains unbeatable in this fiercely competitive market.

Founded on April 1, 1976, by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, the first personal computer kit were made by Wozniak.

From a humble beginning, Apple has come a long way to become the world’s second largest tech company by revenue and third largest mobile maker.

With a range of consumer friendly products like the iPod, iPad and iPhones, Apple has established its edge over others in the technology space.

Apple is now listed among the top 10 companies in the Fortune 500 ranking.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Google employee Andrea Janus demonstrates the use of the mini-putt green on the balcony at the new Google office in Toronto.
Photographs: Mark Blinch/Reuters


Rank: 2

Life without Google seems unimaginable to youngsters across the world. 

What began as a research project to make information easily accessible to people has today turned into a billion-dollar business enterprise.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google while studying at the Stanford University.

Besides their core search business, Google offers a range of internet related products and technologies. It garnered $50 billion in annual revenue for the year of 2012.

In 2012, Google was rated as the most visited site in the world by Alexa.

Besides, being a technology giant, the company offers one of the best workplaces.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Work is carried out at Amazon's logistics centre in Graben near Augsburg.
Photographs: Michael Dalder/Reuters, Inc

Rank: 3

Riding high on the success of the e-commerce boom,, Inc has become the world’s biggest online retailer., Inc, established by Jeff Bezos in 1995, started as an online bookstore but soon started selling electronic products, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewellery. 

Low prices and efficient services are the hallmarks of the company.


World's 20 most admired companies

Photographs: Courtesy, Coca-Cola


Rank: 4

John Pemberton would have never imagined that a concoction he invented in the late 19th century would become one of the world’s favourite drinks.

Planned to be a version of French Wine Coca, the drink was first sold in 1886. It was bought out by businessman Asa Griggs Candler. 

Coca-Cola was sold in bottles from March 12, 1894. Candler’s marketing initiatives paved the way for Coke to win the world’s attention and be regarded as one of the world’s most valuable brands today.

With a wide range of more than 500 sparkling and still brands, Coca-Cola has emerged as one of the world's largest beverage companies. 
More than 200 countries are offered beverages at a rate of more than 1.8 billion servings a day.


World's 20 most admired companies

Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters


Rank: 5

Starbucks is a paradise for coffee lovers. And it was the love for coffee that brought together founders of Starbucks Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker to start this unique venture. 

The founders who met as students at the University were keen on starting a venture to sell high-quality coffee beans and equipment.

Starbucks was established in 1971 as a local coffee bean roaster and retailer in Seattle.

The first Starbucks location outside North America opened in Tokyo, Japan, in 1996.

Today, it is a global brand with 20,891 stores in 62 countries, serving hot and cold beverages, whole-bean coffee, instant coffee, pastries, and snacks. 

Last year, the company saw a record $13.3 billion in revenues.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: A view of IBM headquarters at la Defense in Paris.
Photographs: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters


Rank: 6

The 100-year old technology giant IBM continues its stellar performance in the data analytics and cloud computing. 

Last year, Fortune listed IBM as the second largest US firm in terms of employees and ninth most profitable in the US.

IBM traces its beginning to Computing Tabulating Recording Company (CTR) – formed through the merger of three companies.

Surging ahead with the mission of building a ‘smarter planet’,  IBM manufactures and markets computer hardware and software, besides offering consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology.


Tags: IBM , US , CTR

World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Southwest Airlines.
Photographs: Reuters

Southwest Airlines

Rank: 7

"Our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long term competitive advantage,” says Gary Kelly, CEO Southwest Airlines. 

With a mission to serve customers with warmth and friendliness, Southwest Airlines has emerged as the world’s largest budget airline and one of the world’s most admired companies.

Headquartered in Dallas, the airline was born in 1967 with three Boeing 737 aircraft serving three Texas cities - Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. 

It grew to become a major airline in 1989 when it exceeded the billion-dollar revenue mark. 

Today, it operates 3,400 flights per day and is now America's largest low-fare carrier, serving more customers domestically than any other airline with a unique combination of low fares and customer service. 


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett speaks at a news conference after the opening ceremony of Tungaloy Corp's new plant in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.
Photographs: /Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Berkshire Hathaway

Rank: 8

Berkshire Hathaway owes its success to one of the world’s most successful investors, Warren Buffett.

The company's reputation and credibility have been its biggest strengths. 

Today the company’s  business spans across property and casualty insurance and reinsurance, utilities and energy, freight rail transportation, finance, manufacturing, retailing and services.

Warren Buffett initially maintained Berkshire's core business of textiles, but by 1967, he started looking at the insurance industry.

He first forayed into the insurance business by acquiring the National Indemnity Company.

In the late 1970s, Berkshire acquired an equity stake in the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO), which forms the core of its insurance operations today.

Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most generous billionaires, has so far given away $20 billion to philanthropy.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Characters in the animated film from the Walt Disney Company 'The Lion King''.
Photographs: Reuters

Walt Disney

Rank: 9

Walt Disney a film producer and director, along with his brother Roy O. Disney, co-founded the Walt Disney Productions.

The corporation is now known as The Walt Disney Company created some of the world's most well-known fictional characters including Mickey Mouse.

The Walt Disney Company, together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a leading diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise with five business segments: media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment, consumer products and interactive media.

The Walt Disney Company has repeatedly been recognised as one of the ‘World’s Most Respected Companies’ by Barron's. 


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Federal Express trucks head out for deliveries from a FedEx station in Los Angeles, California.
Photographs: Fred Prouser/Reuters


Rank: 10

Founded in October 2, 1997, FedEx Corporation has been ranked as one of the top 100 companies to work for in 2013.

FDX Corporation was founded in January 1998 with the acquisition of Caliber System Inc. by Federal Express. 

FedEx Corporation, with annual revenues of $43 billion, offers a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. 

The company strives to maintain safe, ethical and professional standards.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Buildings are seen reflected on the GE Building also known as 30 Rockefeller Plaza, in New York.
Photographs: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

General Electric

Rank: 11

One of the world’s most profitable and innovative companies, GE has been consistently winning accolades.

With a wide range of products across segments like energy, technology infrastructure, capital finance and industrial sectors, GE has established itself as a global brand and is the third largest company in the world according to the Forbes 2000 list.

GE reported revenues to the tune $147.35 billion in 2012.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: McDonald's outlet in Beijing.
Photographs: Courtesy, McDonald's


Rank: 12

McDonald's brand mission is to be ‘customers' favourite place  to eat and drink'.  

What began as a small restaurant opened by Brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald – is today the world's largest chain of fast food restaurants, serves around 68 million customers daily in 119 countries. 

A businessman Ray Kroc became the franchise agent in 1955 and played a key role in its rapid expansion.

With over 34,000 restaurants worldwide, McDonald's employs more than 1.7 million people.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: An American Express sign is seen on a restaurant door in New York.
Photographs: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

American Express

Rank: 13

Founded in 1850, American Express has been ranked as one of the most valuable brands in the world. 

What started off as an express mail business in New York, reported revenues to the tune of $31.6 billion in 2012 and has assets totaling $153 billion.

Amex cards account for 24 per cent of the total dollar volume of credit card transactions in the US.


World's 20 most admired companies

Photographs: Courtesy, BMW


Rank: 14

One of the world’s best luxury car makers, BMW was founded by Franz Josef Popp in 1916.

BMW was forced to stop the aircraft engine production after the end of World War I. So the company shifted focus to motorcycles and later automobiles.

The first car was called Dixi, based on the Austin 7 and licensed from the Austin Motor Company.

With its BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce brands, the BMW Group operates 28 production and assembly facilities in 13 countries and has a global sales network in more than 140 countries.

In 2012, the BMW Group sold about 1.85 million cars and more than 117,000 motorcycles worldwide.

In July, BMW Group reported its highest sales for the first six months of the year, with a total of 954,521 vehicles delivered worldwide, an increase of 6.0 per cent over the same period last year. 


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Procter and Gamble trademark is seen hanging outside the New York Stock Exchange.
Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Procter & Gamble

Rank: 15

Multinational giant Procter & Gamble had a humble and interesting beginning. William Procter, a candle maker, and James Gamble, a soap maker moved to Cincinnati for better prospects.

They married sisters, Olivia and Elizabeth Norris. It was their father-in-law who brought William and James together to partner in a business venture.

P& G was born in October 31, 1837 and since then there has been no looking back. P&G is one of the largest and amongst the fastest growing consumer goods companies in the world.

In 2012, P&G recorded $83.68 billion in sales. Fortune magazine has ranked P&G among ‘Global Top Companies for Leaders.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Nordstrom store is seen at a mall in a Denver suburb.
Photographs: Rick Wilking/Reuters


Rank: 16

Founded by John W Nordstrom, Nordstrom is an American fashion retailer. 

John Nordstrom’s business success is indeed inspiring. He migrated to the US at the age of 16. 

He started doing several odd jobs before he became a shoe retailer. Later, the business expanded to include clothing, accessories, handbags, jewellery, cosmetics, and fragrances. 

What started as a small shoe shop in Seattle is a global company serving customers in 44 countries with 117 stores.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: A view of Microsoft's headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris.
Photographs: Charles Platiau/Reuters.


Rank: 17

It was a passion for computer programming that brought together childhood friends Paul Allen and Bill Gates to start a business venture. 

In 1972, they founded their first company named Traf-O-Data, which offered a basic computer that tracked automobile traffic data.

Microsoft was formed in April 4, 1975. Five years later Microsoft forayed into the operating system business with its own version of Unix. 

However, it was MS-DOS that established the company’s edge in the technology space. 

Today, Microsoft is the world’s largest software maker by revenues with a wide range of products and services related to computing. 

Microsoft has also been ranked as one of the world’s best workplaces.


World's 20 most admired companies

Photographs: Reuters


Rank: 18

Nike traces its origin to Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), founded by University of Oregon track athlete Philip Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman in January 1964.

From being a distributor to a Japanese shoe company, Nike has grown to become one of the world's largest suppliers of athletic shoes, apparel and sports equipment.

With revenues of over $24.1 billion, Nike employs more than 44,000 people worldwide. 

Nike also prides to be the most valuable brands among sports businesses.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: A Whole Foods Market in LaJolla, California.
Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters

Whole Foods Market

Rank: 19

Whole Foods Market is again a small store’s success story.

John Mackey and Rene Lawson with a borrowed capital of $45,000 opened a small natural foods store called SaferWay in Austin, Texas in 1978.

Two years later, John Mackey along with Craig Weller and Mark Skiles decided to merge SaferWay with their Clarksville Natural Grocery, to open a bigger store called the Whole Foods Market on September 20, 1980. 

However, business received a severe jolt after a massive flood devastated the store resulting in a huge loss. But customers, neighbours, creditors and even staff joined hands to help reopen the store.

From 1984, the Whole Foods Market started expansion and grew in number to become one of the largest food super market chains in America.


World's 20 most admired companies

Image: Workers walk past Caterpillar excavator machines at a factory in Gosselies.
Photographs: Eric Vidal/Reuters


Rank: 20

With 2012 revenues of $65.87 billion, Caterpillar is one of  leading manufacturers of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines.

The company also manufactures industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives.

Caterpillar Inc was formed with the merger of the Holt Manufacturing Company and the C. L. Best Tractor Company in 1925.