Mukesh Ambani, who heads India's most valuable company Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), has been ranked among the top five best-performing chief executive officers (CEOs) in the world by the prestigious Harvard Business Review (HBR).
Mr Ambani, the only Indian to feature among the top 50 CEOs, is in the same league as Steve Jobs of Apple, Yun Jong-Yong of Samsung Electronics, Russian energy firm Gazprom's Alexey Miller and John Chambers of Cisco Systems.
He is also ranked number two among the top 10 emerging market CEOs with Mr Miller at the top.
KV Kamath of ICICI Bank Ltd is the other Indian in the list of Top 10 Emerging Market CEOs. He is ranked at the ninth spot.
HBR said it ranked CEOs of large publicly-traded companies in a study conducted over 2,000 CEOs worldwide. The entire group represented 48 nationalities and companies based in 33 countries. It put Ambani in the list of "up-through-the-ranks leaders" along with the Samsung boss.
"Among the up-through-the-ranks leaders on our list are Yun Jong-Yong, who joined Samsung straight out of college and worked there 30 years before becoming CEO, and Mukesh Ambani, who joined RIL in 1981, when it was still a textile company run by his father.
"These CEOs may not all be household names, but here's an objective look at who delivered the top results over the long term," HBR said, ranking Steve Jobs as the top CEO in the world.
Mr Jobs, it said, delivered a whopping 3,188% industry-adjusted return (34% compounded annually) after he rejoined Apple as CEO in 1997, when the company was in dire straits. From that time until the end of September 2009, Apple's market value increased by $150 billion.
He was followed by Yun Jong-Yong, who ran South Korea's Samsung Electronics from 1996 to 2008. "Yun is an example of a leader who has stayed out of the limelight. During his tenure he capably transformed Samsung from a maker of memory chips and me-too products into an innovator selling digital products such as leading-edge cell phones," said HBR. Mr Miller was at the third spot followed by Mr Chambers.
HBR said that none of the top three CEOs had an MBA. Mr Ambani and Mr Chambers were the only two in the top five to hold degrees in business administration.
"CEOs who were promoted from inside the company tended to have stronger performance than those brought in from the outside," said HBR.
Several CEOs that were "most respected" according to other reviews were nowhere in HBR's top 50. They include Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Satoru Iwata of Nintendo, Sam Palmisano of IBM and Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil.
Many other celebrity CEOs also failed to make the cut. They include Carlos Ghosn of Renault-Nissan, Sergio Marchionne of Fiat, John March of Morgan Stanley, Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric, Daniel Vasella of Novartis and Robert Iger of Walt Disney.
"Some of these well-known CEOs have not necessarily done poorly; they are just not among the top performers in the world according to the total shareholder return they have delivered so far," HBR said.
The likes of Jack Welch, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison and Bill Gates do not find mention in the list as HBR considered CEOs who assumed the job no earlier than January 1995 and no later than December 2007.
"On an average, the top 50 CEOs increased the wealth of their shareholders by $48.20 billion," it said. They delivered a total shareholder return of 997% during their time in office. That translates into a spectacular annual return of 32%. — Yogesh Sapkale