Satyam Computers, once regarded as a corporate success story is now fallen from grace. Much is being written about fudging of accounts, role of auditors, role of regulatory authorities, government’s efforts in resolving the matter and strengthen the system of corporate governance.
It is not the first such episode. Nor is it going to be the last one, for sure. Enron, World-Com, Tyco and Global Crossing have dominated the newspapers headlines in the US, quite like the media attention that the Satyam saga is getting these days in India.
The full story is still unfolding. There are several policy and regulatory recommendations in the offing. But will that be the solution is the key question. Laws/regulations alone will not suffice. Punishing those who are found guilty will also not be enough. People need to change from within and do business in an ethical way. It is time to do something about ‘integrity’ in our lives. John Griggs wrote a nice story “The Night We Won the Buick”, which I would like to share briefly.
A young boy was ashamed because his poor family was the only one in town that did not own a car. His mother used to advise him “if you have character, you have the better part of wealth”. However, the boy wondered what use was character if it could not buy a car. An opportunity came in form of a country fair in which a new Buick Roadmaster was to be raffled off. His father’s name was announced as the winner. The boy was elated to see the dream come true. The brand new car was theirs. However, he found his parents engaged in an ethical debate. His mother explained the dilemma. Father had bought two tickets-one for himself and another one for his boss. He had marked the name of his boss on one of the studs. The ticket that won the car was actually his boss’s, not his. The boss did not know the number of his ticket. The boy felt there was no need to inform the boss about it for the boss was extremely rich; he possessed a fleet of cars already; and there was no way he was ever going to know that it was his ticket that won the car. However, the father phoned his boss and asked him to take the car. The family could not afford to buy a car for several years more and the boy grew up. As time went on, his mother’s aphorism, “ if you have character, you have the better part of wealth” took a new meaning for him. Looking back, he realized that they were never richer than they were at the moment, when his father made that telephone call, and returned the car to his boss. He did what was the right thing to do.
… I am glad John Grigg’s story is included in school books ( I read it in my daughter’s school book). It is so important to give lessons in integrity and character at an early stage. It is time that business schools gave more focus in imparting practical lessons in integrity and ethical management of business.