‘Gap between perception and practice of corporate governance is closing’

KR Srivats New Delhi | Updated on January 03, 2021

Sanjeev Krishan

Leading companies have done well in putting in place a sound corporate governance framework. In terms of what more can be accomplished on this front, companies need to budget for crisis management, have a crisis management plan and test it, suggests Sanjeev Krishan, who assumed charge as PwC India Chairman on January 1. Krishan, who has been with PwC India for 29 years and had started out in 1991 as an articled trainee, feels India Inc should now leverage Blockchain as a powerful tool for stakeholder engagement. Excerpts:

When do you think India will return to pre-Covid levels (8 per cent) of growth?

That would be crystal ball gazing a bit, and your guess could be as good as mine.

Returning to 8 per cent growth levels is just the first goal. The more important ambition is to unlock the country’s full potential so that its post-revival growth is faster. By further digitalising and formalising the economy, we could make it more productive.

We have a very dynamic scenario with the developments of the virus and the mutant strains. Governments around the world are doing what they can to help people and businesses to come through the crisis, and in India we have surely moved from desperation to exhilaration.

What is your assessment of the corporate governance situation and audit quality in India. Has it improved in recent years?

There is a gap between the perception and the practice of corporate governance in India which is now a lot improved than what it was before. Today, all leading corporates have laid down a strong corporate governance framework which is aligned with their company values, vision and principles. In terms of what more can be done, companies need to allocate budget to crisis management, have a crisis management plan and test it. The board should plan to roll out a strong resilience governance framework. Blockchain is a powerful tool for stakeholder engagement, a much-desired aspect for corporate governance.

Audit approach that intertwines methodology and technology, and is both powerful and scalable is the need of the hour. It can be implemented by people who are skilled and empowered to use the latest technology to solve audit challenges and provide meaningful, data-backed insights.

We are hearing a lot these days on ESG (environmental, social and governance) in boardrooms, at events...what needs to be done for companies to move on ESG front in earnest?

In our experience, a well-executed and well-communicated ESG strategy may help create intrinsic value by appropriately managing key risks and cultivating opportunities. And, if a company is transparent about how it is addressing stakeholder ESG interests, market value should certainly increase over time.

How do you plan to reorient PwC India to compete in the post Covid world? Will there be any structural shifts and any attempts to grow inorganically?

There would be a clear need to adapt to the changing world, which is creating different challenges and opportunities for our wider eco-system. As a purpose led firm our focus would continue to be on building trust and develop outcome based propositions for our desired client markets. Doing this well, will help us deliver quality, which creates relevance and helps build the brand - we see this as the biggest opportunity from the Covid crisis. Doing this well will require us to focus on upskilling our people and hire where we have whitespots - we expect to continue to hire more people with a STEM background in times to come.

How has Covid-19 impacted PwC India?

It has been a tough year for our clients, people as well as the society at large. Disruptions caused by Covid impacted almost all businesses and the economy at large. However, this created an opportunity for us to rethink and reconfigure our ways of working and provided an opportunity to redefine our business ecosystem. This crisis created an urgent need to digitalise and formalise our economy and iron out any frictions to increase efficiency and productivity.

This pandemic also served as a ‘reset’ button, and has drawn attention to the need for sustainability and agility. Our teams at PwC India were quick to adapt to new ways of working and continued to support and address the needs of our clients. One of the key investments which helped us sustain our levels of activity and keep serving our clients in a seamless way was technology and particularly in cloud applications.

In a way, Covid helped its adoption internally and I do hope these learnings will make us more productive, and continue to take us nearer to our people and clients. As a firm, we will continue to focus on upskilling our people, so as to build resilience, keep us equipped for any future challenges and help our clients emerge from this crisis.

What are your plans, especially with respect to your focus areas for growth?

In the short to mid-term, I would like to focus on enhanced communication with our people and clients to gauge how better we can support them in the current context. Internally, I would like to focus on how we can further empower and enable our people with the right digital tools and solutions so that they can fulfill our clients’ commitments while meeting their professional upskilling goals satisfactorily.

It would also be about putting in more systems and processes that will help us make us more efficient and productive.

For the next twelve months, we are focused on four key priorities — Quality; people; clients; innovation and technology.We want to redouble our efforts to foster the PwC Culture, where everyone feels valued, respected, listened to and has the opportunity to grow and succeed in a conducive business environment.

Published on January 04, 2021

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