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Public sector undertakings: Bharat’s other Ratnas

Ajay Chhibber (National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi, India) (Institute for International Economic Policy, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA)
Swati Gupta (National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi, India)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 5 March 2018




While national public policies such as performance contracts and disinvestment affect the dynamics of large- and medium-scale state-owned enterprises in emerging market economies, the purpose of this paper is to analyze the performance of India’s public sector undertakings (PSUs) and suggest options to improve their outcomes.


Using firm-level data on India’s 235 PSUs with total assets of around $500 billion over the past two and half decades (1990-2015), the study empirically tests the effect of performance contracts, measured by memorandum of understanding (MOU) and disinvestment, measured by private equity share, on PSUs performance indicator such as return on capital (ROC). Data were collected from the Public Enterprises Survey Reports released by the Department of Public Enterprises under India’s Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Department of Disinvestment, Bombay Stock Exchange and Capitaline database. By controlling firm-, industry- and macro-level factors in regression models, the results were presented in several aspects like service sector, non-service sector and individual and joint effects.


Empirical estimations indicate that performance contracts such as MOUs have had a positive impact on PSU performance by increasing their ROC by 8-9 percent. This result holds more strongly for the non-service sector (manufacturing, mining) but less so for service sector firms. In the case of service sector firms, partial privatization (share sales) has a significant impact on performance, making them ideal candidates for more aggressive disinvestment. Larger PSUs (Maharatnas) appear to perform better than smaller PSUs and even better than private firms of similar size. Smaller PSUs (Navratnas and Miniratnas) perform worse than private companies and should be good candidates for strategic disinvestment (privatization). PSUs that do not have Ratna status – and are loss makers – should be disposed of their asset value.

Practical implications

The study recommends that India should change the public sector balance sheet by raising capital through strategic disinvestment (privatization), disinvestment and liquidation of PSUs and re-investing it, in public infrastructure through the National Infrastructure Investment Fund and not into the budget as a revenue-raising measure. It should also transform Maharatnas into world class companies with greater commercialization.


The paper makes significant contributions to the academic literature on the changing dynamics of state-owned enterprises in emerging economies by examining the effect of performance contracts and disinvestment on India’s PSUs performance. It is one of unique longitudinal-empirical studies on India’s PSU performance in several dimensions.



Chhibber, A. and Gupta, S. (2018), "Public sector undertakings: Bharat’s other Ratnas", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 113-127.



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