While two public sector financial institutions — State Bank of India (SBI) and Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) — are in the list of top 10 most profitable companies, they remain conspicuous by their absence in the Maharatnas list, posing a question as to the appropriateness/relevance of the composite list, said SBI’s economic research department (ERD).

The report card of the top ten profit-making companies of India Inc in FY23 dispels the belief that Maharatnas/Navratnas are the best in terms of performance, as only one Maharatna (ONGC) features in the top 10 list, according to the ERD’s special report.

The ERD made a case for balancing the Maharatna list through representation from BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) sectoral champions whose 360° contribution supersedes most.

“SBI and LIC, the market leaders in their segments, have no Maharatna Status but they are way more than Maharatna CPSEs (central public sector enterprises) in terms of size of the balance sheet ... they can reach new heights with enhanced autonomy and independent, faster decision-making process, which also raises the bar for other systemic players to adopt best practices...,” Soumya Kanti Ghosh, Group Chief Economic Adviser, SBI, said.

Out of 13 Maharatna CPSEs, only ONGC comes close enough to SBI and LIC, he added.

The ERD underscored that a bird’s eye view of the Maharatna list reveals that certain CPSEs, especially the market leaders from the Banking and Financial Services sector, do not form part of the classification

“…While, during earlier days, the Navratna tag was specifically reserved for entities from manufacturing/production sector to give them enhanced autonomy and decision-making prowess, there has been a fair representation of services sector during recent expansions. Thus, the present list seems incomplete with exclusion of worthy suitors which also curtails their optimal manoeuvrability to navigate the chequered landscape as businesses undergo a tectonic transformation post-covid era,” Ghosh said.

If PSEs are recognised on the basis of the size of their balance sheet, three entities (i) SBI, (ii) LIC and (iii) ONGC are too big to fail for the nation, Ghosh said. So, to recognise their immense contribution in nation building for Amrit Kaal (the next 24 years period up to the centenary of India’s Independence), they may be even distinguished as Amrit Ratna.

Redrawing the benefits that Maha/Nav ratna tag accrues benefits (in sync with a sector’s evolving requirements) for select entities’, which can make them more competitive and future-ready.

“With services sector majorly anchoring India’s quest to attain incremental GDP growth vis-à-vis the manufacturing sector, despite increased focus from policy makers to make India a hub for global manufacturing, bringing forth stalwarts from services domain to also complement the manufacturing domain seems need of the hour as we inch close to the first milestone of becoming a $5 trillion economy,” Ghosh said.