Business Ethics is an exemplary oxymoron. And it is a compulsory paper in most of the B-school curriculums. The syllabus of this illustrious subject is mostly compiled of case studies such as Enron, Worldcom, Tyco and now, probably an Indian addition- Satyam Computer Systems.
The backlash and the furor seems very apt considering the phase that we are in right now. The business cycle across the globe has taken a dip. And when India thought it could stick to its growth story and crawl out of the situation with a moderate growth rate, Satyam happened. The incident matches the ongoing scenario and will very well go down as fallout of the ‘greed-is-good’ culture. It wouldn’t affect the broader picture of the India story but would temporarily dampen the sentiments of the overseas clients who thought India to be a feasible outsourcing destination. The bizarre chronicles of Satyam has already raised questions on the authenticity of the auditors, the dizzy independent directors, the overtly maligned politicians & bureaucrats and also delve into the sites of real estate mafias of AP.
Satyam will pass off as a casualty on the road to financial fabrication in a developing country. It might even engage the policy framing bodies for sometime and give the auditing companies a reason to go through makeovers as in the case of Arthur Anderson (now Accenture). But it seems to have triggered a multiplier effect. Just when the dusts of the Satyam fiasco began to settle down, it was time for rival company Wipro, led by Azim Premji, to face the music. World Bank slapped a four year ban on the company for its jugglery in the ADR issue in 2000.
Now with the latest revelation that the blue print of the Satyam hoax is some 25 years old, one can only wonder the magnitude of pretence that the business houses have built over the years. Ethical dilemmas of management cannot be resolved easily in short term. It is also true that the relationship between ethics and incentives in business continues to be ambitious and contradictory even today. But success can never be documented using deceit and malpractice. A melodramatic tour de foul has turned into a gross domestic problem as employment concerns at the IT counters stare in the face. Once a jewel in the crown, will now go down in the history books as a dose of software that definitely proved spurious.
Disclaimer: I’m neither a Satyamite nor a shareholder of the fallen angel.
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