Sunday, January 11, 2009

About Respectability & Honesty

A storm broke last week....And it continues to rage on....
An incredible amount of sound-byte has been expended on the description and analysis of this catastrophe. I guess it will continue until the next sensation rocks us.

Last night, I happened to watch an interview with Mr. N Narayana Murthy, the face of Indian IT, where he stressed upon the need for creating an environment of respectability in corporate India. He also called upon the media to undertake an annual publication of the 50 most respectable personalities in India, so that respectability became aspirational.
Mr. Murthy's word of the evening surprised me.....Respectability???
Not Honesty. Or even Integrity. But, respectability!!!

I took umbrage to Mr. Murthy's call for respectability for one simple reason. That Respectability is Not a Synonym for Honesty!
Satyam was a company that reeked of respectability...Pretty much like Infosys. It was listed on foreign stock exchanges...Certified to the highest industry norms...Rated as one of the best employers and has to its credit, an enviable string of awards.
However, all the hype and medals did not make Satyam an ethical organisation.
As I watched Mr. Murthy speak, I was reminded of Infosys's moment of shame in 2002, when NRN's protege and Infosys were slapped with a sexual harassment suit. Those who followed the story would remember that the lady in question elected to move the American courts rather than seek justice through Infy's much lauded internal mechanisms of corporate governance.
As the the Demi-Gods of Infy raced to patch the damage sustained by their shield of respectability, I wonder if they had, at any point, paused to allow the painful truth to register.....That Ms. Maximovitch did not trust her employer to ensure justice was done by her.....And if one employee lacked faith, then how many more walked amongst the multitudes that throng Infy's plush campuses?
For some in India Inc., respectability is closely integrated with truth. For many others, it is all about maintaining appearances.
If we take a cold hard look at facts, we will see that the central theme of the Satyam story is not about the lack of respectability. It is about dishonesty. And negligence. And irresponsibility.... As much on the part of the auditors, bankers and a host of certifying & regulatory bodies in India and Abroad, as on the part of Team Satyam and the Rajus.
Respectability, in my opinion, merely masked the problems within!
So, would that make Respectability the answer Corporate India is really looking for?
I am not entirely sure....
Idealistic as it may seem....Difficult as it may be.....I would STILL vote for ethics and integrity!!!


Prasanna said...

I am with you.
Alongwith integrity and ethics I think one more important characteristic is "TRANSPERANCY" which is a must.

Miaow!!! said...

Hey Pras, yes indeed...I kind of figured that transparency would walk in with the Integrity & Ethics which is why I didn't mention it...

Roopa said...

Hmm..the two terms I came up with were Honesty and Transparency. I think integrity and respectability would automatically follow. But then, that might be too much of an idealistic notion..sigh!

Ricky said...

Unless one has a tremendous body, one shouldnt be transparent. Obviously Ramalinga Raju didnt have a nice one especially with the side excess flabs and the protruding paunch. So cant really blame him for being non-transparent. But NRMoorthy has a sexy body, so he can afford to be transparent. Plus who made Raju the poster boy of A.P I.T? Clinton wonder...Clinton even tried the same with Infy that is why they had a taste of his antics in 2002...Now Clinton is busy targeting Condoleeza Rice... ;)

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Phoenixritu said...

This was total corruption and siphoning off funds .... and there is no excuse for that. Integrity, Ethics and honesty did not have any role to play in this fiasco

Anonymous said...

That was good. I was also put off by NRM's attempts to distance himself from his peers in the industry, and stand alone (unscathed) at the top of the software mountain. He probably wants to win the 'Most Respectable Indian' award. As far as I know, most Infy-staff are disillusioned with the organization for their people-unfriendly policies. Atleast the Satyam staff have not spoken out against their mentors yet. Which will certainly not be the case with Infy, if (God forbid) Infy ever was in this situation.

Prasanna said...

When you are saying Infy's unfriendly attitude, always remember that one can be either popular or successful. There are very very few people who have achieved this. And those who reach this level shall be the real idols!