Who are the highest-paid CEOs in India?

Who are the highest-paid CEOs in India?

By Keshav Sunkara

  • 20 Aug 2018
Who are the highest-paid CEOs in India?
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India Inc’s bosses got hefty salary hikes for the year through March, with the aggregate pay packet of the 10 highest-paid executives—including both promoters as well as professional managers—rising 34%.

Even after skimming out the outliers, the median increase in the pay packets of these individuals was a juicy 32%, according to a VCCircle analysis of management compensation.

In the top-10 club, just three executives—Tech Mahindra’s CP Gurnani, Larsen & Toubro’s AM Naik and Max Financial’s Rahul Khosla—were professionals; the remaining slots were occupied by promoters holding top executive roles in their companies.


Interestingly, the total amount shelled out by publicly listed companies to the 10 highest-paid promoter executives (Rs 552 crore) is slightly lower than the aggregate pay packet of the 10 highest-paid professional managers (Rs 589 crore). The rise in aggregate for these two sets was also similar at 26.5% and 33.8%, respectively.

The overall list of the best-paid executives has historically been populated largely by promoters, as they get a percentage of the profit generated by the companies. This had changed last year in particular when four of the top five and half of the top 10 were professionals. While the top two of the elite club are still professionals, thanks to stock options exercised during the year, the broader list is now once again dominated by promoters.


Promoter execs

The 10 highest-paid promoter executives saw their median remuneration grow 12.3% for 2017-18 with Sun TV Network’s husband-wife duo Kalanithi Maran and Kavery Kalanithi retaining the top slot with a cash compensation of Rs 87.5 crore each. Their compensation includes salary, ex gratia payment and bonus. In the previous year, they had got Rs 77.9 crore each.

Earlier this month, Kalanithi Maran and Kavery Kalanithi had asked the company’s board to limit their remuneration for 2018-19 to a sum not exceeding the remuneration they earned in 2017-18.


Meanwhile, Hero MotoCorp’s Pawan Munjal and JSW Steel’s Sajjan Jindal got hefty hikes. Jindal also earned Rs 11.8 crore as chairman and managing director at another group firm JSW Energy in 2017-18. Factoring that into his remuneration, his total pay packet was around Rs 60 crore.

The list also features Apollo Tyres’ father-son duo Onkar Kanwar and Neeraj Kanwar. While Kanwar Sr. has been a regular in the list of highest-paid executives, the son entered the elite club this year.

Jayadev Galla, managing director at Amara Raja Batteries, is the only parliamentarian in the list. He represents Andhra Pradesh's Guntur constituency in the Lok Sabha.


Ravi Jhunjhunwala, chairman and managing director at HEG Ltd, entered the list after his remuneration grew 18-fold last fiscal year.

Those who moved out of the list include brothers Hital and Nikhil Meswani, who are cousins of billionaire Mukesh Ambani but are not part of the promoter group of Reliance Industries. They had entered the top-10 list the previous year due to a large part of the compensation coming via exercising stock options. Another executive who moved out of the top 10 is HDFC Bank’s Aditya Puri.



Among the non-promoter executives, Tech Mahindra’s CP Gurnani topped the charts thanks to his hefty stock compensation. He is the highest-paid executive in the combined list for the second consecutive year.

Gurnani, who joined India’s fifth-largest software services provider in 2004 and was elevated as managing director and CEO five years later, drew the bulk of his remuneration (Rs 142.32 crore) in the form of stock options. He earned Rs 3.87 crore in cash compensation.

The stock options were granted to him earlier and exercised last year. This means his total remuneration is not a direct reflection of his or the company’s performance during the year.

Next on the list is AM Naik, who has led Larsen and Toubro for decades. Naik earned Rs 137.24 crore after including the stock options exercised during the period.

Naik received Rs 89.26 crore in cash compensation for the year, setting a new record in terms of cash compensation paid by an Indian public company to an employee. This was largely due to retirement benefits of Rs 77.68 crore. His term as the executive chairman of India’s largest engineering company had ended on 30 September 2017. He is currently non-executive chairman of the company.

There are two more members in the list who held non-executive positions—Vineet Nayyar, who had retired from his role as non-executive vice-chairman of Tech Mahindra in July and Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, currently non-executive chairman of cigarette-to-hotels conglomerate ITC.

HDFC Bank chief Aditya Puri fell out of the overall top-10 list but made it to the top-paid among the professionals, after he exercised stock options granted in the past.

Others in the list of highest-paid non-promoter executives include Rajeev Jain (Bajaj Finance), Markand Bhatt (Torrent Power), Om Prakash Manchanda (Dr Lal Pathlabs), Ganesh Nayak (Cadila Healthcare) and C. Ramachandra Rao (Avanti Feeds).

This list only covers directors of publicly listed companies. Indeed, many private companies, especially large multinational firms, pay hefty compensation to local heads. But top management compensation data are not available for all privately held firms.

*This article has been updated to include Rahul Khosla of Max Financial and C Vijayakumar of HCL Technologies.

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