Despite Covid downturn, CEO salaries went up by an average of 19% in FY21.
Financial year 2020-21, while dominated by Covid-19 that adversely impacted economic activity and the job market, proved fruitful for India’s top chief executive officers (CEOs) and chief experience officer (CXOs). CEOs’ salary recorded a strong double digit growth in line with a rally on the bourses and big jump in corporate earnings.
The average CEO salary was up 19 per cent in FY21, and listed companies together paid Rs 9,763 crore to their top management during the fiscal -- up from around Rs 8,200 crore a year ago. This includes the total remuneration of all board members in the respective companies.
The top CEOs got an even bigger raise in FY21. The average salary of the country’s CEOs -- those earning Rs 10 crore or more in FY21 -- was up 32.9 per cent in that financial year. Corporate India’s top earners took home a total salary of Rs 3,222.4 crore in FY21 -- up from Rs 2,424.9 crore a year ago.
The analysis is based on a common sample of 153 CEOs with annual remuneration of Rs 10 crore or more in FY21. In all, there were 162 CXOs with annual remuneration of Rs 10 crore or higher in FY21, but eight of them were new appointees or got promoted into board-level positions in FY21.
The biggest jump in CEOs’ salary was reported by mid-size companies.
Naveen Chopra, MD of Punjab Alkalies, topped the charts with a 6,279 per cent year-on-year rise in his salary in FY21. His remuneration rose from Rs 45 lakh in FY20 to Rs 28.68 crore in FY21. This made him the 23rd highest paid chief executive in FY21.
Rashmi Saluja, chairperson of Religare Enterprises, was another big gainer. Her salary was up 10X in FY21 to Rs 11.16 crore from Rs 1.14 crore in the previous year.
Similarly, Ronojoy Dutta, CEO of Interglobe Aviation, which operates IndiGo Airlines, saw an 8X jump in his salary to Rs 15.23 crore in FY21 from Rs 1.89 crore a year ago (see chart).
Sun TV Network promoters Kalanithi Maran and Kavery Kalanithi Maran were once again the top earners in FY21 with annual remuneration of Rs 87.5 crore each, but their salary didn’t grow during the year. They were followed by Hero MotoCorp’s CMD & CEO Pawan Munjal at Rs 86.93 crore, up 2.8 per cent year-on-year. Divi’s Lab Chairman and MD Murali
K Divi was at the third spot with total remuneration of Rs 80.84 crore in FY21 -- up 54.4 per cent from the previous year.
The other big earners in FY21 included Sajjan Jindal of JSW Steel -- earning Rs 73.38 crore in FY21, up 87.6 per cent from Rs 39.11 crore a year ago. He was followed by Wipro's Thierry Delaporte (Rs 64.35 crore), P R Venketrama Raja of the Ramco Cement (Rs 59.76 crore; up 45.7 per cent) and Salil Parekh of Infosys (Rs 49.68 crore; up 188.3 per cent).
The list of executives with big salary jumps in FY21 included CEOs and CXOs from the country’s top IT companies.
For example, Tech Mahindra’s CEO and CXO remuneration was up 304 per cent y-o-y in FY21 to Rs 14.4 crore from Rs 3.56 crore a year ago. Infosys MD & CEO Salil Parekh’s salary nearly tripled in FY21 to Rs 49.68 crore in FY21 from Rs 17.23 crore a year ago, making him the seventh best paid CEO in the country.
Other IT sector CEOs with a big rise in remuneration in FY21 included Sandeep Kalra of Persistent Systems (up 153 per cent y-o-y), L&T Technology’s Keshab Panda (up 147.4 per cent), Wipro’s Rishad Azim Premji (up 129 per cent) and Mindtree’s Debashis Chatterjee (up 107.9 per cent).
Delaporte was the highest paid newly appointed chief executive in the country in FY21. He joined Wipro as MD & CEO with an annual salary of Rs 64.35 crore, making him fifth best paid CEO in FY21.
Analysts expect CEOs to get a good raise in FY22 as well, given strong earnings growth during the first nine months of the fiscal and a continued rally in stock prices. CEO salaries of most companies are linked to the company’s financial and stock market performance.