CRISIL comes of age
Rs. 295 pp 135
Hemanth Gorur and Sumit Chowdhury
The thought that strikes you as you read this slim history of CRISIL is how young India’s first ratings agency actually is. It’s been around just 25 years but the brand is so ubiquitous in the financial marketplace that you cannot imagine an era when corporate debt was not rated.
Ratings have come to acquire such a central place in credit risk evaluation it is easy to overlook the fact that, unlike the US, it was not nurtured through statute in India.
The question Indian ratings agencies have not had to face in the aftermath of the sub-prime crisis – what were they doing while junk debt was being peddled by the shipload – says a lot about the professionalism of CRISIL, which kept credibility at the core of its various businesses.
Doing What is Right: The CRISIL Story trace the company’s growth through the personalities of its three remarkable leaders, Pradip Shah, R Ravimohan and Roopa Kudva. Shah set out the rules of the confidence business by charging clients for being rated and not for the rating outcome.
This was ahead of its time but gave CRISIL the room to be unbiased. Ravimohan took the company beyond its core business into research and analytics, converting a Rs 15 crore turnover into Rs 300 crore. Kudva brought ratings to small and medium enterprises, a game changer in India’s corporate landscape with 5,000 listed companies and 26 million small firms.
Hemanth Gorur and Sumit Chowdhury have brought out the processes and the people behind them at CRISIL in a new light. The run-up to Standard & Poor’s acquisition is thoroughly fleshed out as is CRISIL’s string of acquisitions to establish a global footprint.
A report on the health of the power sector, with its impact on the balance sheets of lenders, created a media storm last October. CRISIL’s assessment that banks were staring at Rs 56,000 crore in sticky loans over the next 18 months if there was no meaningful progress on reforms was eerily prescient.
The national grid collapsed next summer as states continued to overdraw power. The government had to step in and restructure the finances of state power distribution companies that had by and large bankrupted themselves offering cheap electricity to voters. Clearly, CRISIL has come of age.