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This Govt Company Lost Rs 11.65 Crore Per Employee, and It's Not Air India

May 30, 2017

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The finance and defence minister Arun Jaitley, recently said: "India has a historic second chance, after nearly one-and-a-half decades, to disinvest in state-owned Air India Ltd and help propel the growth of aviation sector."

Whether this happens remains to be seen given that the issue of disinvestment of Air India is a political hot potato, and any movement on this front is likely to lead to a lot of hungama, for the lack of a better word, from India's professional trade union leaders, as well as the opposition parties, which have been in a rather moribund state of late.

Over and above this, the Modi government hasn't really come up with any economic reform till date, which is likely to make it unpopular with a section of the population. The unpopular steps have typically been reserved to drive the so called cultural agenda of the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

Having said that, before the government goes about disinvesting Air India there are several low hanging fruits that it can pluck, and save a lot of money in the process. One such company is the Hindustan Photo Films Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Take a look at Table 1.

Table 1: 10 Major Loss Making CPSEs during 2015-16

As per Table 1, Hindustan Photo Films was the fourth largest loss maker among all public sector enterprises in 2015-2016. It made a loss of around Rs 2,528 crore. The three companies that made greater losses than Hindustan Photo, had some semblance of a business, though not a business model. The Steel Authority of India Ltd has steel plants all over the country and employs thousands of people, though it lost a lot of money in doing so, given that it can't compete with the Chinese steel on the price front.

The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, offers telecom services across the country. And Air India, for whatever it is worth, is India's national airline and flies people globally as well as locally. It also flies the prime minister whenever he takes an international trip.

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But what about Hindustan Photo Films? What does the company do? Photo films went out of business a while back. The question is: Why is the government still running a photo film company? The photo film was killed first by the digital camera and then by the mobile phone. Actually, the company doesn't make photo films any more.

During 2012-2013 (the latest annual report that I could find), the total production of the company had stood at Rs. 3.6 crore. The sales had stood at Rs. 3.7 crore. Now imagine who in their right minds would run a company with sales of under Rs. 4 crore and which ends up with losses of more than Rs. 1,500 crore, as it did during the course of 2012-2013. As mentioned earlier in 2015-2016, the company lost Rs 2,528 crore. It employed 217 individuals. This meant a loss of Rs 11.65 crore per employee. This number shows the ridiculousness of the entire exercise of keeping the company alive.

In fact, 2015-2016 wasn't the first time that Hindustan Photo Films lost money. It has been losing money for over a decade. Between 2004-2005 and 2015-2016, the company has lost close to Rs 15,000 crore in total.

Table 2: Losses of Hindustan Photo Films

As is clear from Table 2, the company hasn't made any money in years. Given this, in order to continue to operate the company has borrowed money. As of March 31, 2016, the total long-term loans of the company stood at Rs 23,752 crore. Servicing these loans by paying interest on them, I guess is the major expense of the company now. I say guess because I don't have access to the latest annual report of the company.

Banks keep giving loans to a dud company like Hindustan Photo Films because they know that they are ultimately lending to the central government, and what can be a more safer form of lending.

It is worth pointing out here that the government does not have an unlimited amount of money. Every rupee that goes towards funding the losses of companies like Hindustan Photo Films, is money that does not go towards more important things like education, health, or affordable housing, for that matter.

Also, a normal excuse offered on keeping a loss-making public sector enterprise going is that so many people are employed. Over and above the direct employment, there is a certain ecosystem that the public sector enterprise feeds into and helps that ecosystem as well. But in this case, this logic fails given that there are only 217 employees. They can be given a good voluntary retirement package and the company can be shutdown. Also, the physical assets of the company can be sold to repay the debt that has been accumulated. For starters, the company has 472 constructed homes in its township.

This is low hanging fruit that the Modi government can easily cash in on, if it wants to. Why this hasn't happened up until now, on that your guess is as good as mine.

Vivek Kaul is the Editor of the Diary and The Vivek Kaul Letter. He is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. The books were bestsellers on Amazon. His latest book is India's Big Government - The Intrusive State and How It is Hurting Us.

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17 Responses to "This Govt Company Lost Rs 11.65 Crore Per Employee, and It's Not Air India"

gopalan ramaswamy

Jun 10, 2017

Its true. But when Air India is a popular Co. It attracts attention of both govr and opposition. Sure Niti ayog may be cinsudering divestment. But there should be suitors. While other cos have some relevance to prest business HPFL has not. Only option is winding up. I was employed with one such co in footwear and assocuatex wirh tge other. Tge kanpur based TAFCO had a lit if res buildings bit it was difficult fir gove to cash them as ppl. Luving in 2nd or 3rd gen refuse to give up including sr mgt ppl. But after a long time these were wound up. So this sd. Also be done. Govt to obercome sone burocratic vested interest and hurdle. But the article is a timely reminder.

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Hirnank mazumdar

Jun 6, 2017

Good research n indepth study. But why anti Modi n anti BJP RSS. Congress was the biggest scamster. Pl admit n don't defend the sycophants who have minted tax payers money under the leadership of a firangi

Like (2)

Alex

Jun 5, 2017

Hi,
The info given by your article enables a common man to know well about how our PSUs are actually functioning. It is literally wasting a common man's money in running such kind of organizations which have been in one way can be said as defunct.There is no point in advertising saying "Pay Income tax and contribute to nation building" when the ultimate thing is to do such kind of weird thing and catching hold of the common man's neck by imposing various forms of taxes.
It would be better for the Government to wind up the company & settle off its liabilities & use the balance proceeds if any to minimize the liabilities of other PSUs.
Once again thanks for this wonderful article.

Like (1)

K.S.Sashikumar

Jun 5, 2017

MR.Vivek, you are absolutely right in pointing out the failures of public sector organisation. But, post financial crisis many private sector units are also in doldrums. when you write about AIR INDIA you should be equally critical about King Fisher airlines also. When you write about BSNL you should also write about RCOM.
When you write about the NPA of public sector banks you should also write about the greed of private sector organisations which borrowed heavily from there and fail to repay the loan and interest. Unfortunately, we are caught in between the greed of private operators and inefficiency of the government/public sector.You seems to be a big fan of private entities. If you think that only private sector can solve over problems- i am sorry- look at the education sector and health care sector in the hands of private entities- it has gone beyond the reach of common man. they serve only the minuscule rich and creamy layer of this country ignoring the vast majority. Failures are there in both but you seem to pick and choose the failures of only public sector. This Government is trying to clean up the mess and debris of 60 years of plunder an dirt. They are taking some good initiatives and the discussions are on for disinvestment in sick units. Have patience and give them some time.

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Arsh pandey

Jun 5, 2017

What about the balance sheets of private limited company. How much taxpayers hard earned money does they owe from banks. After some time they will simply run away to England like Vijay Mallya.

Regarding Govt PSU,s New-age public sector enterprises

In the last seven decades, Indian economy has grown over 1,444 times from `94 billion to `136 trillion. Public sector which has played a critical role since independence, has provided continuous momentum to this growth story. It has laid sound industrial and infrastructural foundations, and has helped in attaining technological prowess to place India among the fastest growing global economies.During the journey, public sector faced many ups and downs. Despite this, the sector showed remarkable resilience and adaptability, proved its mettle by successfully countering rising competition in global market and provided the much needed stability to the country during economic down turns.Impressive performance of central PSEs (CPSEs) can be judged from the fact that for the last four years, PSEs have been earning a net profit of over `1 lakh crore every year. They have contributed over `2 lakh crore to the exchequer every year from FY14 to FY16. CPSEs registered a turnover of `19,95,716 crore during FY16 which is 13.66% of the GDP. Total investment in 320 CPSEs, of which 244 are operating, is `11,71,844 crore. These had 12.34 lakh employees in FY16.During the last decade, CPSEs contribution to the exchequer has been `17.87 lakh crore, which is 1.5 times the investment in these enterprises. They have paid `4.34 lakh crore as dividend out of which `2.83 lakh crore has gone to the government. Their payout as taxes and duties has been `14.87 lakh crore, and they have earned a net profit of about `10 lakh crore since FY07. There are seven Indian companies in the Global Fortune 500 list, of these three are CPSEs and one public sector bank.

Public sector is no longer the public sector of yesteryears. Maharatnas, like IndianOil, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, Bharat Heavy Electricals, NTPC Limited, Steel Authority of India, etc, are world-class CPSEs. Several PSEs like GAIL (India), RITES, Engineers India Ltd, MECON, HPCL, BPCL, NALCO, WAPCOS, etc, are globally competitive and at the forefront of forging joint ventures in setting up subsidiaries abroad and expanding overseas operations.Many PSEs have over the years, played a vital role in providing the critically needed infrastructure. Coal India, RITES Ltd, Power Finance Corporation, Airports Authority, Bharat Sanchar Nigam, GAIL, PGCIL, Container Corporation are among such PSEs.In the backdrop of Make in India, CPSEs have given boost to manufacturing, and a thrust to R&D. They have also initiated strategic and innovative approaches towards digitalisation by adapting IT technology, e-auction, e-tendering and procurement, e-recruitment portal, compliant resolution mechanism, etc. These efforts are helping them bring more transparency.Despite all this, it has become a fashion to spread belief that private sector does better than public sector. No private sector could have ever built the kind of railway network in the country, be it in pre or post independence era, that Indian Railways has been able to do.But there are some challenges which need to be addressed, on a war footing, to ensure that PSEs perform to their full potential. First, is concerning governance, which has two issues. One is clearly defining role and responsibility of ownership and management, and the second is institution of independent directors. OECD guidelines on corporate governance state that the government should develop an ownership policy. It should define the state's role in governance of state-owned enterprises, its implementation of ownership policy, and the respective roles and responsibility of the officers involved. Such a policy will ensure that PSEs are run in a professional manner and will not cause complexities and uncertainties in taking decisions purely from a professional angle. As owners the main concern of the government should be that PSEs operate and function in a transparent and ethical manner and achieve their set goals, complying with all statutory regulations, and also earn profit besides fulfilling laid down commitments including CSR.

As far as compliance management is concerned, PSEs have adopted constructive mechanism to ensure greater conformity with rising standards of corporate governance. They comply with several rules and regulations under elaborate Parliamentary and government control. They have accountability to other authorities like CAG, CVC and under MOU System, RTI Act and mechanisms required in Companies Act. Over 100 PSEs have also gone an extra-mile by signing Integrated Pact with Transparency International. All these measures, though very beneficial, at times have also undermined performance of PSEs. There is, therefore, need for convergence of these heterogeneous regulatory mechanisms.Institution of independent directors has emerged as the cornerstone of corporate governance. Absence of requisite number of independent directors on the board has implicated PSEs for not complying with the mandatory requirements of corporate governance. Here, it is important to understand the existing process for appointment, in which PSEs have negligible role. The process being tedious needs to be reformed and simplified.Corporate social responsibility is an important aspect of corporate governance. PSEs, set up with twin objectives of economic development with social justice have given high priority to the ideals of CSR. Even after liberalisation, their emphasis on CSR has continued, and in fact intensified. According to Prime Database's recent report, during FY16, 920 companies spent `8,345 crore towards CSR. Among them 47 were PSEs, which spent `2,936 crore or 35.2% of the total.On the CSR front, the challenge before PSEs are concerned with the Board and appointment of independent directors for setting up board sub-committees, which approve allocation of CSR funds. Selection of suitable agency/trust is also important besides creating awareness among employees, shareholders and other stakeholders about the company’s efforts towards fulfilling social responsibilities.Succession Planning is another area of challenge which involves capacity and skill building, motivation, retaining talented employees etc. Capacity building is crucial to fill the knowledge gap at various levels in the organisation and it should be in an ongoing process. Capacity building of the board members and senior managers is critical for sustainable and competitive growth. PSE Boards have a complex collation of diverse and heterogeneous partners, namely functional directors, government-nominee directors and independent directors. All the three come with different qualifications, possess varied experiences, and working atmosphere/background. An effective orientation programme is required so that they can contribute effectively to the sustainable development of the organisation and various stakeholders.Succession planning and grooming dynamic leaders for top management at strategic positions is another challenging job. To accelerate the process, there is need to develop a cadre of potential candidates and professional executives within a PSE as well as within the public sector. Today, world over, growth with social equity is the buzz word. Public sector is in an advantageous position in this respect. They have improved their performance by sustained transformation in human resource management, technological advancement, operation management, quality management, etc, incorporating the best corporate governance and CSR practices. Their size and over-arching presence across the country and various sectors of economy place them in a better position to be the partner for government’s missions of Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and Swachh Bharat. With government’s conducive policy interventions, PSEs can take the country among the league of the developed nations.

Like (2)

shyam Sunder Gupt

Jun 4, 2017

Its astonishing to know the Losses of Hindustan Photo Films! Where is Govt n Policy Makers. Please get rid of this cancer-ed co. to the earliest.

Like (1)

Kanu K Warriar

Jun 3, 2017

Hi Equitymaster & Vivek,
"Mr Modi" to grab attention? Equitymaster was a pioneer in research, respected. Something changed over the years, each article written in daily mail end with calling own staff an expert or recommending some service of own. Vivek writes emotively punching someone or the other, links on Equitymaster, now ET too. You have the team and ability to provide great service, please stick to good advice like old times and stop this negative thoughtscare technique for marketing. Please believe in yourselves, like we do i'm a subscriber since start...hoping for good times being back, for some more years.

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E Vishwanathan

Jun 1, 2017

More such articles please about public sector units bleeding public money. The general media high light on the Kingfisher case only .

Like (1)

P V Samuel

May 31, 2017

Your deep and penetrating analysis is doing great service to the Nation and its Govt. if it reckons your good efforts sincerely.

Like (1)

Paresh Gandhi

May 31, 2017

Hi,
This company is the best example of wasteing hard money earned by the people for only 217 workers. Government can easily accommodate them some where else and can sale the company to cut the losses. Government can used its land for another project and this way also they can cut the losses

Like (3)
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