"I am from Business Standard. Is the board meeting over or still on?" I ask the receptionist at the headquarters of SKS Microfinance Ltd, the sole microfinance institution in the country (apart from being the largest) listed on the stock exchanges.
Taken aback at the unexpected visitor in the forenoon of Friday, the receptionist calls an associate in the companyâs corporate communication department to convey that a journalist was enquiring about the board meeting. The associate comes on line, "Sir, we are not planning any press interaction. We might send a press release in the evening."
Fine, but can you tell me where the board meeting is being held and who all are attending it? I ask. "Sir, we are asked not to disclose anything," she answers. Can I meet Mr Atul Takle (SKS executive vice president, corporate communications)? No, "he is not in the office at present".
Last evening, Takle said neither the venue nor the time of the board meeting had been finalised. "It could be in the afternoon because some directors are coming from abroad," he had said, adding the venue would also be known by this morning. However, he could not be reached on his mobile phone today.
Non-disclosure of information is nothing new to SKS. Even when the company sacked its managing director and chief executive officer, Suresh Gurumani, on October 4, it did not offer any explanation for the exit of its top executive.
"We are not going to comment on that," Takle had said, when asked why his MD had been terminated. SKS came out with an explanation only after the Securities and Exchange Board of India asked for reasons.
The media's interest in the SKS board meeting was compounded by the indications that Gurumani, who continues to be a director on it, would attend the meeting, the first to be held after he was dismissed.
Consequently, journalists made frantic efforts to find out the venue of the meeting and tapped every source known to them. They checked at all the major hotels from the morning if any meeting of SKS was being held or scheduled to be held but to no avail.
By afternoon, it became clear that Gurumani was attending the board meeting but he also did not disclose the place where it was being held. "I am in the middle of a meeting, I canât talk to you now," he said, when asked about the venue. Intriguingly, he had not said anything so far about the circumstances that led to the termination of his services. His silence in this regard has attracted a lot of speculation on the reasons for his exit.
SKS net at Rs 81 crore
Meanwhile, SKS today reported a net profit of Rs 81 crore for the quarter ended September 30. For the first half of this year, net profit was Rs 147 crore. Revenue for the quarter stood at Rs 373 crore, while it was Rs 668 crore for the first six months. It did not give comparative figures, as it got listed recently.
SKS said it had 2,407 branches and a client base of 7.8 million. It disbursed Rs 3,171 crore during the quarter and Rs 5,454 crore during the first six months.