Eye on CFO: Vijay Paranjpayee

Paranjpayee spoke to FinanceAsia about the changing role of the CFO in today''s corporations.

From just a dozen employees in 1987, India's bluechip Global Tele-Systems Limited (GTL) is today among the fastest growing technology companies in India, with foreign and domestic funds operating in India owning a large part of the $10.92 million equity of the Bombay-based company. The CEO of GTL, Manoj Tirodkar received an award this April for being a young entrepreneur and while announcing the latest results, Tirodkar said future growth will be through acquisitions and mergers.

His strategy has so far paid off as Global Tele-Systems shares rallied from $5 or Rs200 (in 1999) to $87.50 or Rs3500 per share in one year (March 21 2000). And there is a silent worker behind the screen writing the merger and acquisition programme ± Vijay Paranjpayee, the CFO of Global Tele-Systems. The unassuming Paranjpayee, who is 42 and from the central Indian state of Maharashtra says when ever he gets time away from work he spends it with his family. An admiring employee of GTL says Paranjpayee is a silent worker and Tirodkar's most trusted lieutenant.

When asked if the CFO in Global Tele is almost akin to a Deputy CEO the soft-spoken but firm Paranjpayee told FinanceAsia: "It depends on the company, management and their internal procedures. In general, the CFO has taken on a profile almost as high as that of the CEO, as finance has become the driving force in the organization. Here in Global Tele-Systems, the CFO works as more than a financial controller and is giving more thrust to strategic planning and business development."

The CFO, he says, is a key player in everything that's going on. "He's in a deal-making role, at the heart of mergers and acquisitions." Companies that have a new-style CFO are likely to be more responsive to faster cycle times and growing competition, and therefore better positioned to take advantage of IT. "The alignment of IT investments and the business strategy is much better in this case, because the CFO is likely to have the resources and desire to communicate the strategy to the management."

Global Tele-Systems began as a trading company, supplying and servicing single line phones, EPABXs, and fax machines but over the years the company has reshaped itself into a global telecom and software solution provider.

The shift is well charted in the table showing the strategy of reducing earnings from the low margin consumer telecom division.

A senior official of the company said the company is planning to hive off its consumer telecom division. "The consumer telecom business is a high-volume, low-margin business," he says.

The new strategy, he said, is to move out of low margin and highly competitive areas. Another source said the company has drawn an internal target of raising $250 million over the next two years.

GTL's strategy involves a timely disinvestment of low margin areas and a quick entry into high value areas.

In the latest results the company has reported an extraordinary income of $29.75 million by way of dilution of its stake in the group firm, Global E-commerce Services (GECS), while the company paid $13.5 million of capital gains taxes on the sum.

GTL has now formed a 100% subsidiary, Global Internet Holdings. The spokesman of the company said that of the seven to eight joint ventures that have been lined up, all would concentrate on B2B activities.

GTL has also been laying a 5000km fibre optic cable. Another JV relates to a proposed tie-up with a leading international company for reverse auctioning. This JV is setting up a portal which will provide information about hotels in India and help customers devise their own travel plans. Customers can ask for a number of nights at a particular rate and decide their travel plans.

GTL is also forming a JV with India's Crest Communications to provide and source entertainment, games and other services.

Meanwhile Global Electronic Services, a subsidiary of Global Tele-Systems, has gained approval to set up its own internet gateway.

GTL reported a 261% growth in profits to $74.75 million for 1999-2000 as compared to a profit of $15.75 million in the previous year. The sharp spurt in the net profit is attributed to higher volumes in e-commerce and its software businesses.

Not very flamboyant, Paranjpayee told Finance Asia, "The worth of a senior finance officer is not measured purely by the balance sheet but by the role played by them. They function more like a global risk manager and analyze the manner in which the company's objectives are achieved. The CFO needs to make himself more marketable by broadening his managerial background."

Sources say the company is also planning an offering in the international markets to fund its expansion programmes and offer liquidity to foreign investors.

Paranjpayee says Global Tele-Systems is looking out for some JVs and acquisition's with companies based in the US and Europe. "We are also looking out for some strategic partnership with domestic companies in the field of software development, and e-commerce."

He adds "The vision of an Extraprise was the underlying idea upon which our strategy was made to have strategic business units. For synchronization and integration, an organization needs connectivity with the help of state of the art networks. With the help of a network, the Extraprise needs efficient software processes fully mapped to its functional needs and finally should be able to recognize its true position in the value chain. The peripheral activities can be outsourced to the partners who can deliver a better value. An overall communication backbone has to be built for the communication to take place between the entities of an Extraprise."

Speaking of improvements in corporate governance, he said the company was undergoing significant changes due to the emerging challenges of the 21st century. These challenges, he added, include the changing pattern of share ownership, globalization of business, increasing incidents of frauds and demands for transparency. "The key to corporate governance is a well-functioning Board of Directors," he says. "We are attempting to enhance wealth through increased accountability to investors by creating more democratic forms of corporate governance." Working in a finance company - American Express Bank for 13 years and with Alpic Finance for five years - Paranjpayee knows the fundamental principles of creating wealth.

His wife Sushma Paranjpayye told FinanceAsia that Parangjpayee cherishes the family and likes "homemade food". Married for 18 years they have two daughters: Madhura and Shivangi.

He is forward looking and, says a female co-worker, not bureaucratic like the traditional Indian finance officer.

"Our company's corporate governance is based on the principles of accountability, transparency and equity," he concludes.

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