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Ever imagined living in a fairy land where all those you happen to know are smart, living their lives to the hilt? They could be visiting exotic locales, celebrating career achievements and other events in their lives, or simply having a blast. The sun is always shining, the flowers are forever in bloom, the birds are incessantly twittering and the bees are invariably busy collecting nourishment from delicate flowers. In other words, God is always in heaven and all is well with the world.internet image 1

In this land, the sky is never overcast. The harsh arrows and slings of life simply do not exist. No one ever falls sick. A business loss or a career setback never appears on the horizon. There are no villains around. Parents find that kids throw no tantrums. All denizens behave in an exemplary fashion. Everybody likes everybody else. Spirits are all buoyed up, what with people making positive comments only.

Yes, I am talking about our social networking platforms. It is mostly about ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’. Face Book, LinkedIn, Instagram, Four Square – all showcase the ultimate in the art of narcissism. We upload all the positive happenings in our lives. We wish to announce to the world that we have finally arrived. When it comes to playing the game called life, we are smart.

Only our accomplishments get announced to the netizens. We want everyone to know what a great time we are having. Intimate feelings which we feel shy to convey either face to face or over phone we pour out to those in our network. Just-married couples exchange love messages over it. Fathers have a purely personal discussion with their sons on such platforms.

Why does this happen? Why do we choose to live in a fish bowl? Have we all become addicts to a virtual bliss which shuts out the real world? Why is it that before we reach out to our morning cup of tea we prefer to browse through our smart phone or laptop, just to check how many ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ we have received on what we posted last? Our mood fluctuates much like the Dow Jones index, depending upon the sheer volume and quality of response our posts generate. Walking to catch the metro, or talking to a colleague, we make a virtue out of checking the status on such platforms at regular intervals.

Perhaps, the answer lies in our need to seek wider approval for our actions. Or, we find ourselves so lonely that we are desperate to connect with someone out there. If so, perhaps the loneliness arises out of our increasing sense of isolation in the society. Possibly, we like only ourselves.internet image

Movies, television and other forms of entertainment offer us a willing suspension of belief. With social networking, we have found a better means of achieving this state of transient bliss. We wish the world to know only what we believe it should know about us.

Anything negative happening to us we would like to sweep it below the carpet. It is like an extended dating trip in life, where we project our best at all times. We have to be presentable at all times. We also have to be politically and socially correct all the times. Our ugliness, warts and all, need not be shared with those who form our universe of ‘friends’.

It is not my case that social networking is utterly useless. It is helpful in so many ways. It helps us to discover and remain connected to distant friends and relatives. But there are limitations as to how we have chosen to use these powerful tools.

Nor am I trying to say that details which could jeopardize our career prospects or hurt someone else need to be shared. If a medical emergency gets posted online, instant help could follow. If an assignment is getting too hot to handle, advice could come in from distant quarters. In the long run, our not-so-glamorous side could also become a part of our public profile. The fact that we can seek help openly would show us to be professionals who are humble and willing to learn. The caring and sharing part of our personality would also emerge.

In blogsville, we do find people sharing their traumatic experiences, but not so on social networking sites. Don’t you think it is high time we thought of developing a protocol which would be like, say, ‘Truth and Dare’ on such sites? Those who join this group would undertake to be truthful to each other about what is happening in their lives.internet image 2

A better level of frankness and openness could prevail. The level of hypocrisy could come down, thereby increasing our capacity to devote ourselves to more creative pursuits. A more balanced profile could emerge. Our strengths as well as our weaknesses would show up. An HR manager who interviews one of us after having gone through our Face Book or LinkedIn profile would no longer need to ask the question we dread the most: “What are your strengths and weaknesses, please?”

Afraid of losing friends and assignments this way? Fret not. Only those who like you and your work genuinely would get in touch. Others would fall by the wayside over a period of time. You would be left behind with a shorter list of ‘friends’ who would prove to be more loyal in the long run.

Are you game? Would you like to give a more balanced spin to your online profile?

What do you think of being part of a group which could be christened as SPIN – the Society for Prevention of Internet Narcissism? Would you prefer to be counted as the smartest one?!

Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/of-nomophobia-and-noconnphobia; https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/why-become-a-slave-to-technology.

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At present, the term GDP in India appears to have come to represent our collective Gross Despondency Perception. Our economists and statisticians can perhaps cheer up the hapless and overtly depressed citizens. They can do so by overcoming their obsession with pure materialistic growth. There are several ‘intangibles’ as well as ‘tangibles’ which can get added to the quantitative measure of our progress. For all you know, they could end up depicting a rosier picture which would also be closer to reality.

The following invisible facets of GDP could do with better visibility in the public domain:GDP Housewife

1.   Grand Domestic Pampering 

Household chores performed by a vast majority of the better half of our citizenry continue to remain invisible even to prominent economists who take such services for granted at their own homes. Home makers surely deserve a better deal. Without their contribution, the wheels of our economy would grind to a complete halt in no time. Home management services are provided by them 24×7. There is no doubt that they possess a high degree of multi-tasking skills. Also, their inventory management techniques always ensure that there are no stock-outs in the kitchen when uninvited guests suddenly pop up over the weekends.

 2.   Gross Dramatic ProduceGDP Tagore

Why neglect works of entertainment, literature, music and art works? The movie industry keeps churning out pot-boilers one after the other. Over the years, only the bar of success at the box office keeps getting raised. Television has already blossomed into a primary source of entertainment for the masses. Both the mediums have transcended international boundaries and gone global. India boasts of prolific writers across all languages and there is no reason their contribution to the social thought process should get neglected. Creative personalities and achievers of all kinds have added value to the Indian identity – right from Rabindranath Tagore to M F Husain, from M S Subbulakshmi to Pandit Ravi Shankar, from Munshi Premchand to Vikram Seth and from Lala Amarnath to Saina Nehwal. The relative soundness of the Indian IP regime can facilitate the inclusion of this parameter in the GDP computation without much fuss.

 3.  Groovy Digital Products

With broadband getting rolled out across the country, and with spectrum sales eventually coming out of the depressing shadow of scams GDP Aishwaryaand judicial overreach, the Indian economy would soon start getting digitalized at a faster pace. Digital experiences are slated to improve in terms of reach as well as quality. This sector can boast of a unique range of intangible assets of its own. Such developments can only be ignored at our own risk and peril.

4.   Great Domestic Patience

Yet another soft power which remains ‘invisible’ to the Homo economicus (as opposed to the Homo reciprocans) amongst us is the religiosity, the innate bent towards spirituality and the resultant bias towards non-violence. The patience displayed by most of our denizens in dealing with shoddy civic facilities, super-slow public services and systemic corruption is perhaps a result of our social mores which are steeped in spirituality. By ignoring this facet, a great mechanism to handle setbacks in life is therefore left out of the reckoning.

GDP R&D

5.   Grand Design Patronage

R&D expenditure in the private sector is another area which deserves attention. Admittedly, we are far behind in the realm of innovation and design. But we do have the potential to catch up with the rest of the world. If such expenditure is considered an investment in the economy, a more realistic perspective would emerge.

6.   Green Development Plans

In the relentless pursuit of economic growth, we are guilty of drawing more than we replenish to Mother Nature. Whether it is mining, spectrum-sharing or water-management, we are taking myopic liberties which would prove very expensive, if not irreversible, in the timesGDP environment to come. Green initiatives taken to compensate for the loss of natural resources surely merit inclusion in our scheme of things. The aggregate value of ‘production’ should surely be adjusted to reflect the permanent damage caused to our fragile environment.

Considering intangibles in macroeconomics data is not a new idea at all. Way back in 1908, Thorstein Veblen, a sociologist and economist, had used the phrase ‘intangible investment’ to cover everything from innovation to promotion and advertising. At a business level as well, the proportion of tangible assets backing up a brand could be a miniscule 5% of the overall value of the brand.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis of US has recently created history of sorts by publishing a revised series of public accounts which include the R&D investment in private sector as well as original works of art such as films, books and music. As an example, for the period from 2002-12, the new data shows an annual average growth rate of 1.8% in place of the earlier declared rate of 1.6%.

We have a number of institutions, bodies, statisticians and economists who can surely propose a more balanced way of capturing the realities of the Indian economy. The data may not be easily available and may have its own share of initial controversies, but the attempt would certainly be an improvement in the right direction.

PS: Whatever little I understand of Economics, it is due to the learning received from late Prof. S P Singh, a friend, philosopher and guide. This article is merely a humble tribute to the great person. 

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Even though quite a few business houses from India had joined the World Economic Forum’s Initiative against Corruption in November 2012, not a single Indian company has so far become a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption. This is deeply regrettable and projects the image of a corrupt business environment in India. It discourages foreign investments and erodes the brand value of Indian companies. In the absence of a level playing field, businesses shy away from potential opportunities. Mr. Ratan Tata’s lament on not having able to enter the field of aviation quite some time back is still fresh in our minds.

Companies can never be faulted for hiring Vice Presidents who are highly virtuous, law abiding and disciplined souls. Understandably, only those who follow high ethical standards and are in sync with the core values of the company would make the grade. However, in quite a few organizations, such qualities are merely necessary but not sufficient. When it comes to handling external agencies, incumbents who can either bend a few rules or interpret the fine print of law creatively to add to the bottom line of the company alone would be rated high and viewed with awe and reverence.

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Scenario

In other words, VPs should not only be ‘Virtue’ Presidents, but should also possess the flexibility of doubling up as ‘Vice’ Presidents while dealing with liaison matters. This stems from the core belief that businesses cannot be run successfully without back-stage dealing and wheeling, obviously with the aid of what many would euphemistically refer to as ‘appeasement initiatives’.

Appeasement of any kind is invariably geared towards either tweaking government policy to suit the ends of business, as also for specific time bound gains in the forms of large contracts, largesse, concessions and indirect favors. Organizations believe that advance knowledge of government plans, policies and rules is a great tool to deliver results to shareholders who not only look for long-term capital gains but also for better results quarter after quarter.

Sleeping with the enemy

If a professional gets stuck with an assignment which involves corrupt practices which do not match his or her personal core values, one option would be to escalate the issue. This would ensure that the matter is reviewed at a higher level in the organization.

If this option turns out to be impractical for some reasons – whether professional or personal – another one would be to start actively searching for career options with companies which value ethical practices in business!

A much better option, however, could be to work for a change from within the organization. This could be done either by presenting alternative business plans to management or by recommending an approach whereby the company could sidestep the issue by projecting its innate strengths in an aggressive manner. Let us consider some of the tactics in a professional’s arsenal which could be used to combat corruption in business deals.

Tackling Business Competition in the Market Place

The best strategy for a business to have is one which is based on avoiding government doles and concessions. By focusing on core competence and by fighting out the competition in the market place, the business can reduce its dependence on a wide section of the government policies. Surely this calls for rare qualities of leadership, statesmanship and openness. Inviting the government to play favorites and to resolve competitive business issues that are better dealt with in the market place could be a boon as well as a bane. However, this may not be possible in industries which are highly regulated.

Operating in an Unethical Environment

If one has absolutely no other option but to operate in an unethical business environment, the following steps might help to avoid corrupt practices.

  1. Building trust: An honest and humble approach, backed by a long relationship built on explaining the contribution of business can and does work. Investments made, employment opportunities offered and revenue generated are a few of the things that can be leveraged to secure favorable decisions without indulging in corruption.
  2. Reputation travels ahead: The fact that a business house does not stoop down to corrupt practice is generally well-known. It is a strategic advantage to have a squeaky clean image which ensures that a request from such an outfit is treated with the respect it deserves.
  3. Investing in underground cables: It never pays to flaunt one’s relationships. By keeping them underground, one not only wards off competition but also ensures that in case of a change of regime, the damage is minimal.
  4. Diversifying one’s liaison ‘assets’: One learns to be friendly with political opponents. In TN, one needs to be friendly with both the Dravidian parties. In WB, it is tough even if both CPM and TMC are one’s friends. In Maharashtra, Congress, NCP and both the variants of Sena must all like one for one’s business to make some headway.                                                                           Business history teaches us the same lesson. In the pre-independence era, Tatas were funding Gokhale and engaging with the nationalist elements while British officers retired from ICS were being employed by the group. JRD had excellent personal rapport with Nehru. G D Birla had been corresponding with Winston Churchill for a long time. Churchill’s dislike for Mahatma Gandhi was well-known; even though he was being supported by Birlas. They gave a job to one of his sons. It is a fact that he was assassinated while staying as a guest at Birla House in Delhi.
  5. Be courteous, humble but firm: Most government officers take a dim view of business executives. Firstly, they are not viewed as being dependable. Secondly, they are thought to be paid exorbitantly high and generate a feeling of awe as well as jealousy in a public servant. Now, if one walks in with one’s latest cell phone and/or tablet in his office and starts showing off the latest Rolex watch, one would be surely shown the door promptly.

Setting the Moral Compass Right

The UN Convention against Corruption is a laudable initiative and deserves to be given a serious thought by our present day business leaders. It binds an organization to (a) reducing corruption risk in procurement and contracts, (b) engaging in competitive and transparent procurement processes and (c) disclosing all payments made in procurement deals. The global panel already has names such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Siemens and Accenture.

It is not that India does not have shining examples of groups which have demonstrated the strategic advantage of pursuing business goals while staying the ethical course. The Tata group has been at it for the past 120 years or so. Liberalization of the economy appears to have thrown up quite a few scams, but companies like Infosys keep our hopes alive. As per Elaine Dezenski, senior director at WEF and the head of PACI, Infosys, Godrej Industries, Bajaj Auto, Genpact, Wipro and M&M are already signatories to the initiative.

As argued in an earlier blog (Getting a Moral Compass Would be a Sound Business Strategy for India Inc, published on December 9, 2012), companies in India would do well to seize the opportunity to clean up their business deals. A beginning can be made by persuading major political parties to make their funding transparent. Those in real estate business can come out with a time bound plan to rationalize stamp duties all across India, thereby making their deals more transparent.

Hopefully, progressive companies in India would see the strategic benefits of committing themselves to such initiatives soon enough!

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14As Mr. Ratan Tata demits office as a Chairman of Tata Sons and as a head of the $84 billion conglomerate of over 100 companies in the world-famous Tata group on the 28th of December, 2012, permit me to salute the group as well as its illustrious leaders who have led it to great heights in the field of business, as also in philanthropy and in socially relevant initiatives.

I am just one amongst millions of the group’s ex-employees who have had a stint with the Tata group.  The connection of my family with the group spans three generations. Way back in 1945, my father was associated with Tata Airlines. In 1976, I started my career with the Leather Complex of Tata Exports (now known as Tata International). Due to compelling personal reasons, I had to finally leave the group in 1993. In 2003, my son started his career innings with Tata Motors.

What is it that goes on to make the Tata group different from its competitors and contemporaries in the business world? With all humility that I can muster, here is my take.

Succession Planning

Mr. Jamsetji N. Tata was the founder of the group. In 1904, he handed over the baton to Sir Dorab Tata, who was at the helm of affairs till 1932, followed by Sir Nowroji Saklatvala who was there till 1938.

The group was then steered by Mr. J. R. D. Tata till 1991, when the charge passed on to Mr. Ratan Tata. It was on March 23, 1991, that Mr. Ratan Tata was told by his uncle that he intended to handover the baton of the group to him. Coinciding with the economic reforms unleashed by Dr. Manmohan Singh, the group has had a remarkable journey since then!

Mr. Ratan Tata took over the reins of the group at a time when it was an empire made up of several independent fiefdoms, run by stalwarts like Mr. Darbari Seth, Mr. Russi Mody, Mr. Ajit Kerkar and Mr. Nani Palkhivala.

Much like the King Bharata in Mahabharata who chose a successor based on merit alone, the group has invariably followed the principle of meritocracy when choosing a successor. What Cyrus Mistry takes over from him today is a much more well-knit and cohesive group, united by a shared philosophy, vision and identity.

A Conservative Outlook on Diversification

Tatas have often been criticised for not being enterprising enough to diversify into new fields. Mr. J. R. D. Tata himself attributed this in 1991 to two factors – an unwillingness to compromise on certain principles in the licence and permit raj prevalent then, and a long-held belief that the group’s principal role was to develop basic industries.

From textiles, hotels and a premier institute of learning, the group took a leap of faith to set up the first steel plant in India at the beginning of the last century. Then it ventured into hydro-electric power, soaps and detergents, cement, tin, soda ash, housing and commercial vehicles. Post 1947, when India gained independence, the group went in for cosmetics, steel tubes, refrigeration, fisheries, refractories and pharmaceuticals. Tea, watches, bearings and several others followed.

During Mr. Ratan Tata’s tenure, the group improved its focus on the business horizon. In tune with the changing times, TOMCO, Lakme, Merind, ACC, Nerolac Paints and others got hived off. Businesses like IT, telecom and financial services got added to the group’s portfolio. TCS became a flagship company, leading India’s march into the knowledge economy.

In 2000, Tata Tea took over UK brand Tetley. During 2007, Tata Steel acquired Anglo-Dutch rival Corus. The buyout of JLR in 2008 supplemented the core competency of the group company now referred to as Tata Motors. This move further established the global aspirations of the group – a segment which today contributes 60% of its revenues. Leveraging its strengths in the automobile sector, the group entered the territory of passenger cars, overcoming such hurdles as the Singur controversy. Nano is an innovation which has been taken note of globally.

Mr. Ratan Tata did not have it easy. Due to a negative business environment, the entry of Tatas in the field of airlines got aborted. It moved in time to save Tata Financial Services when the top management there committed fraud. In the telecom field, it had to grapple with a nascent industry which is still plagued by policy uncertainty. The controversy surrounding the infamous Radia tapes went on to show that what would have been considered a minor transgression by any other business house proved to be a demoralizing factor, somewhat sullying the group’s pristine white image.

Referring to the airline fiasco, he claimed in a press interview that he was rather proud of the fact that he could not handle political manipulations.

Concern for Environment and CSR

Industrialists complaining about environmental regulations and land acquisition issues today could surely learn a few lessons from Mr. J. N. Tata when he went about setting up India’s first steel plant during the early 1900s in what was then a predominantly forest area, inhabited by tribals.

In a letter written to his son in 1902, five years before the site of the steel plant was finally located, Mr. J. N. Tata laid down broad guidelines covering the design of the industrial complex which was to come up at Jamshedpur: “Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens. Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks. Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches”.

When TELCO Pune was planned, thousands of trees got planted first. Since trees needed water, an artificial lake was created with a circumference of four kilometres. The factory buildings came up much later.

At the Leather Complex at Dewas (MP) that I was associated with, other than a massive plantation of trees of all kinds, a deer park was also set up. Our Accounts Department was often twiddling its thumbs to figure out if the cost incurred on the animals’ upkeep was reasonable!

Focus on People

The average Tata manager is sober, knowledgeable, mature, restrained, dignified, humane and downright ethical.  It does not boast of, but is quietly aware of, being part of a group which has always conducted its affairs in a transparent and ethical manner. There is an in-born self-belief that the values Tatas follow are not a mere statement of pious intentions; rather, these form a blueprint which guides and permeates all the activities the group.

Tata Steel has several firsts to its credit in the realm of labour welfare. An eight-hour working day was introduced in 1912 itself, whereas the law mandated it only in 1948. Likewise, free medical aid, establishment of a Welfare Department, formation of a Works Committee for handling employee grievances and leave with pay, provident fund, etc. were introduced much before the relevant laws came into being.

The social welfare measures across various Tata companies may vary, but the standards set by them somewhat exceed the legal requirements. Tax planning, yes; tax evasion, never. The group’s foray into education, fine arts and other socially relevant projects was planned and executed at a time when CSR norms were not even heard of.

How closely the value of compassion is cherished became very clear in the aftermath of the 26/11 terrorist attack on The Taj Mahal Hotel. The conduct of the employees during the attack and the subsequent support they received from the management is a case study in organizational behaviour and employee motivation.

I had a first-hand experience of this value of compassion in 1991 when I and a colleague of mine were mercilessly beaten up by a gang of misinformed workers of one of the small ancillary units of the Tata Exports. Prompt medical attention, legal support, counselling for the self and the family and a compulsory vacation followed automatically. A month later, Mr. Syamal Gupta, the then MD, nine rungs above us in the rigid Tata hierarchy, called for a personal meeting and instilled in us a sense of pride and fulfilment for having stood up to the rowdy elements in the work force.

The fact that I write this piece almost twenty years after I parted company with the group goes on to show the sense of belongingness I still – and shall continue to – carry with me!

Ethics and Values – A High Moral Quotient

When I look back at my association with the group, which lasted over ten years split over two phases, I am amazed at the rich learning I had. Job rotation, technical training and job knowledge apart, the exposure to the nuts and bolts of business ethics left an everlasting impression on my psyche.

A bribe was a simply not payable, whatever the commercial cost of keeping an entire manufacturing facility idle for three weeks. A senior manager who made the error of judgement of offering a bribe to a government servant for securing a permission was publically rebuked and persuaded to leave the company. Instead, I, a junior office then, was sent to accomplish the task without any speed money being paid. Luckily, I could manage this feat, though the company ended up incurring a cost of five times the bribe amount on my trip alone!

Aiming for Perfection

As per Mr. J. R. D. Tata, “One of the weaknesses of our country is that we are satisfied with the second or third best in everything. The basic attitude of chalega, ayega, dekhega. Therefore almost everything we do, we do it poorly”. He always maintained that “You can’t achieve high standards by aiming at those standards. You can only achieve a standard by aiming at something more. If you want excellence, you must aim at perfection”.

This implies painstaking attention to detail, a trait which permeates all spheres of the group’s activities. When a new factory block came up in the company, I asked my boss as to why a black stone slab was made a part of the flooring at the entrance to the shop floor. He was quick to point out: “That is the only way to ensure that we have minimum dirt and dust entering the floor; black colour will show any deviations without fail!”

“Humata”, “Hukhta”, “Hvarshta”

These words form a part of the Tata crest, designed by the founder Mr. Jamsetji Tata. In the ancient Avesta language, these mean “Good Thoughts”, “Good Words” and “Good Deeds”. The premium that the Tata brand enjoys in the market is the culmination of more than a century of efforts of the group, based on these principles and values preached as well as practised by the group.

As Mr. Ratan Tata henceforth channelizes his dynamism towards philanthropic activities and development projects, I have no doubt that he would come up with more innovations in the field of social entrepreneurship, so as to transform and upgrade the lives of millions in India at the bottom of the pyramid.

I once had the privilege of meeting him fleetingly at a Pragati Maidan Expo held in New Delhi in 1993. From what little I know of him, he is not the retiring kind. To him one cannot express the usual wishes of a peaceful and quiet retirement, howsoever well deserved it is. One may instead wish him long life, health, contentment and all the fun and excitement he can find in any activity he may choose to indulge in hereafter.

Likewise, one wishes Mr. Cyrus Mistry a great cruise ahead in these times of exciting business possibilities for the group! To quote a song from “The Sound of Music” – one of the greatest musical movies ever produced:

“Climb every mountain, ford every stream; Follow every rainbow, till you find your dream….!”

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It is heartening to note that as many as six large Indian corporate groups have joined World Economic Forum’s Partnership Against Corruption Initiative at a recently concluded WEF India Summit in New Delhi. Infosys, Wipro, Godrej, Bajaj and Genpact have thus joined ranks with MNCs like Siemens, ABB and Rio Tinto in pledging to stamp out corruption across all their business verticals. Thirty more companies have apparently discussed concrete action that they can take to curb graft in their business dealings. A small beginning, but a crucial step appears to have been taken in the right direction. 

Corporates – Victims as well as Participants

To lay the entire blame for corruption in high places at the doorstep of either the politicians or the bureaucrats is like looking at only one side of the coin. The corporate world is not only a victim but also a participant in the vicious cycle of corruption that corrodes our economy and saps the vitality of our constitutional institutions. The fact that business has finally articulated its voice against unfair practices goes on to confirm that anti-graft measures make eminent sense as a business strategy.

India Inc willy-nilly becomes a partner in institutionalized corruption not only because of its need to line the pockets of those who make and implement laws and regulations which touch upon their businesses. The need to milk the exchequer to generate vast sums of cash to fund political activity also contributes towards the malaise.

Setting the Moral Compass Right

Siemens’ is a case in point. Based on investigations between 2001 and 2007, the German engineering major admitted to several bribery charges and paid fines of USD 1.6 billion to US and German authorities. The cases involved its operations in such far-flung countries as China, Venezuela, Argentina, Iraq, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

A massive clean-up started, starting right from the Board of Directors. A Compliance Director was brought in. Besides organizational changes, compliance teams were set up across all the business verticals. All such teams formed an integral part of the respective business processes but functionally reported to the Compliance Director. As a policy, internal whistle-blowing platforms were created. A conscious decision was taken to withdraw from projects and territories where it was not possible for the company to engage in clean business.  In other words, rather than confining itself to paper affirmations and lip service, anti-graft measures were made an integral part of the business processes of the company.

It is not surprising that Tatas, a group renowned for its ethical standards in business, decided to study the Siemens model. It is well-known that for more than a century, Tatas have maintained a steady rate of growth without succumbing to the charms of shady deals as a means to the end of making profits. The result has been a steady build up of the trust placed by the public in the Tata brand.

There are many instances of small businesses the owners of which suffer sleepless nights when asked to shell out taxes of any kind. Some reckless souls end up crossing the thin line dividing tax evasion and tax avoidance. There is no dearth of professionals who specialize in supporting such efforts, either due to pecuniary considerations or owing to the need to be in the good books of their bosses.

Quality and Types of Corruption

The World Economic Forum deserves to be lauded for its efforts to facilitate the anti-graft renaissance amongst India Inc. However, what needs to be realized is that the quality of corruption has undergone a major change over the past several decades. Way back in the late 1970s, it used to be either about bending the rules or for terming a “wrong” as a “right”. Now, it is mostly about framing the rules in such a way as to favor a privileged few, and terming a “right” as a “right”!

Corruption, as we face it today, has become more refined, operating within the legal paradigm, at subterranean levels. Corrupt practices brook no standardization; there are different kinds which have evolved depending upon the situation at hand.

The customary kind is designed to prevent harassment and delays. “Speed money” helps smoother implementation of a business venture, within the ambit of rules and regulations in force. This kind also covers a bidding process where all players do not get a level playing field.

The predatory type of corruption is one where those connected to power centers exploit business opportunities armed with prior knowledge of the development projects being planned. Again, all activities would be within the ambit of law, though there would be an in-built advantage in favor of the well-heeled.

The patronage kind of corruption is based on cliques. A team gets formed, and the proceeds typically flow towards the higher echelons. Private businesses as well public sector entities fall prey to this type of corruption.

Companies typically face internal corruption in such areas as procurement, logistics, outsourcing and the like. Internal audits are useful to curb these to some extent, but the real game changer is a clear message from the top, as also an exemplary reward and reprimand system for those who work in sensitive areas.

Then there is petty corruption which all companies and individuals face in their day-to-day operations! Eradicating this type could perhaps be the toughest challenge.

The Road Ahead

The RTI Act in India has surely been a very progressive step in the right direction. It has brought the corruption issue centre-stage and continues to remind us of the fragility of our systems and procedures at regular intervals.

The response of our business leaders to the initiative of WEF is praiseworthy. One would watch their future actions with a keen sense of anticipation and hope. If the business in India comes together and forms a self-regulatory Corruption Watchdog, it could bring in a major change in the way the masses perceive its conduct. Corporates can also resolve to make all political donations transparent, thereby dismantling one of the main pillars of our parallel economy.

The fact that India is ranked 94th out of 176 countries in corruption by the 2012 scores released by Transparency International is a wake-up call to all stakeholders to address this issue with all the seriousness it deserves.

Leaders with a High Moral Quotient

I may sound like a pessimist, but I do believe that just like the oldest profession in the world, viz. prostitution, the oldest practice in the world, viz. corruption, cannot be altogether eliminated. But all self-respecting citizens – corporate or otherwise – would perhaps agree with me that it can at least be reined in, if not eliminated.

For this to be achieved, both the Government and India Inc can work in tandem. The Government can pitch in by playing the role of a transparent facilitator of business and by renewing its efforts towards creating a more equitable and inclusive society. Corporates can effectively contribute towards this goal by depending upon those who have the wisdom to differentiate between right and wrong. In other words, by having leaders and managers who have a high Moral Quotient!

In the long run, a sound business strategy means steering a business by using a moral compass as well!

 

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A vast majority of our management professionals may typically scoff at the idea of any common areas between the realms of happinessspirituality and management. After all, management is all about getting things done, irrespective – perhaps – of the means deployed. Result orientation, MBO, resource optimization, mentoring, etc, have been the key words in the better part of the last century. On the other end, spirituality is widely perceived as one being decent and nice to others, of being considerate and empathic. This sounds more like a surreal concept, because then, it is commonly feared, there is a good chance of either insubordination, or an emotional blackmail by others in the organization, thereby diluting the chances of achieving one’s goals effectively and efficiently.

In other words, management is perceived to be at one end of the spectrum whereas spirituality is believed to be at the opposite end. However, if one were to look a little deeper, one is likely to find not only several dots which join the two apparently diametrically opposite view points, but also a new vision and strategy to manage affairs more effectively than ever.

BEING SPIRITUAL

What do we understand by spirituality? Sure enough, it is not being good to others around us. It has more to do with an inner call and a yearning to do better, whatever may be the chosen field of one’s activity. Like perfection and happiness, which are not destinations in life but the journey of life itself, being spiritual is a process in itself. An inner process of self introspection, development and improvement is what makes a person spiritual. Spirituality is awakening oneself and developing one’s unique abilities to the maximum, thereby maximizing one’s innate potential to achieve excellence in management.

Spirituality is not about withdrawing from the worldly activities; instead, it is about an active engagement with the mundane affairs of life, whether pertaining to managing an enterprise, or related to one’s personal life and self-development,

A manager is not an exception to this fundamental truth. In fact, armed with his systematic approach, he would chalk out a plan to achieve the goal of becoming spiritual in all his dealings. And that would make him even more spiritual than he originally would have been!

ATTRIBUTES OF A SPIRITUAL MANAGER

A manager who is keen to realize his own self would be more empathic towards his team mates’ problems. He would instinctivelyMahabharat Krishna Arjuna know when to motivate whom and when to pull up a defaulting team member. He would never rebuke a team member in public and praise in private. He would do his own home work in advance, and base his plans on feedback and suggestions from his team. Invariably, he would go into minute details of the plan, thereby striving for and achieving perfection. Failures would be taken as stepping-stones of future successes, and not necessarily used for witch-hunting. He is a leader as well as a mentor.

Why did Krishna choose to teach the essential principle of detachment to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra? Because due to a misplaced sense of attachment, Arjuna was deviating from his karma. The Lord was obviously a smart leader, so he decided to motivate him at a crucial juncture in his career. If the goal was to facilitate a win for the Pandavas in the war and avenge injustice and humiliation suffered by them at the hands of the Kauravas, he got it done very effectively indeed! Would it then be wrong to label Krishna as a Spiritual Manager?!

MOVING OVER TO “SQ” – A SPIRITUAL QUOTIENT

Management thought and practice has evolved dramatically over the past few decades.  The early 20th century saw our civilization coming up with an index for our cognitive and intellectual abilities – the IQ. Then in 1985, Howard Gardner came up with his research on “multiple intelligences” in his book Frames of Mind. Later, John Mayor and Peter Salovey co-propounded a new concept of “emotional intelligence” that is said to shape the quality of our inter- and intra-personal relationships. Reuven Bar-On coined the term “EQ” and described it thus:

            It is thought that the more emotionally intelligent individuals are those who are able to recognize and express their emotions,c1 (25) who possess positive self-regard and are able to actualize their potential capacities and lead fairly happy lives; they are able to understand the way others feel and are capable of making and maintaining mutually satisfying and responsible interpersonal relationships without becoming dependent on others; they are generally optimistic, flexible, realistic and are fairly successful in solving problems and coping with stress without losing control.

Daniel Goleman published his book Emotional Intelligence in 1996, confirming that success in life is based more on our ability to manage our emotions than on our intellectual capabilities; also, that a lack of success is more often than not due to our mismanagement of emotions. Some factors comprising emotional intelligence are “self-awareness, seeing the links between thoughts, feelings and reactions; knowing if thoughts or feelings are ruling a decision; seeing the consequences of alternate choices; and applying these insights to choices.”

Now, the time is coming for another paradigm shift – that of considering SQ – a Spiritual Quotient. Managers of tomorrow not only need to unlearn what they have learnt so far in business – their own or others’. To be effective, they need to refurbish their arsenal of managerial techniques by bringing in a spiritual awareness in whatever area they work in. Work, tempered with a liberal dose of contemplation alone would hold the key to managerial success in the days to come.

SELF-REVERENCE, SELF-KNOWLEDGE AND SELF-CONTROL  

The young executive today has excellent media exposure. A completely different set of rules at home have ensured an upbringing which is quite different from that of the earlier generation of managers. Undoubtedly, HR professionals today have a far more challenging job at hand in attracting as well as retaining the people.

The other day, the HR manager of a reputed software company bemoaned that unless one gets used to such inane tantrums as thea1 1 (11) aroma of toilet soap provided to employees in the wash rooms of their sprawling campus, and took care of the temperature at which a pizza or a hamburger was served in the canteen, the guy who is worth a couple of million dollars worth of revenue to the company might just decide to call it quits!

When it comes to appraising their team members, how many leaders are comfortable to be candid and straightforward? The underlying cause is for them to mix up between the person and his performance. Irrespective of the amount of rating scales developed, judging a person remains a subjective affair. But when it comes to rating performance, a great deal of objectivity is essential as well as desirable. A sense of detachment is of great help in such situations.

Likewise, when there are separations to be handled, true blue HR guys would handle the same with professionalism – in other words, with a sense of objective detachment.

Leaders have to make great sacrifices on the personal front so they may set a good example to their followers. “Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control – these three alone lead life to sovereign power”, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in Oenone, the poem named after the daughter of Mount Ida, who precipitated the Trojan War. Leaders without a spiritual compass in hand could result in their teams going astray.

THE HEART-MIND CONNECT

The heart, considered to be the seat of our spirit, isn’t a sentimental or an emotional entity. It is now understood to be intelligent and04 powerful in its own right. Its intelligence manifests itself as an intelligent flow of awareness and insight, or simply put, as intuition.

Several ancient civilizations, like the Egyptian, the Greeks and the Indian, have held the heart to be a primary organ capable of influencing our emotions, our morality and our decision-making abilities. Similar views are echoed in the Bible as well as in Chinese, Hindu and Islamic beliefs and scriptures. According to pioneering work done by Doc Childre, Howard Martin and Donna Beech: “All these conceptions have a common view of the heart as harboring an “intelligence” that operates independent of the brain yet in communication with it.”

Unlike the mind, the heart processes its intelligence in a more intuitive and different manner. The heart is not only open to new possibilities; it actively seeks from the environment newer understandings. The head “knows” but the heart “understands”.

In spiritual practice, we have streams which focus on quietening the mind; we also have systems in which the focus is on the “divine light” in one’s heart. All forms of spiritual practices nevertheless lead to better clarity of thought. This eventually translates into higher effectiveness and productivity at the work place.

THE AGE OF THE SPIRITUAL MANAGER

The following are some of the ways in which a spiritual manager stands to benefit:Technology MEDITATION-ENTREPRENEUR-SUCCEED

  1. Improving his self management, resulting into better effectiveness and improved personal productivity.
  2. Radiating his positivity to those around him/her, thereby improving organizational climate. This surely has a long-term impact on the operations.
  3. Improving communication, thereby enhancing his capability of getting things done.
  4. Facilitating sustained invigoration of operational strengths and continuous replenishment of organization’s resources.

In the future, thanks to shorter attention spans of consumers and an information overload, businesses would be facing higher levels of uncertainties. Managers with a high SQ would invariably have a higher chance of succeeding in meeting their goals.

Thanks to Lehman Brothers and the ensuing economic meltdown, there is an increasing realization in the west that there are serious pitfalls in the culture of materialism. No wonder that Harvard, MIT and Sloan are a few of the business schools which are now actively collaborating with management education institutes in India. This gives a unique opportunity to their students to learn the Indian culture and ethos first-hand. Management lessons from Gita, socially relevant projects and mentoring of under-privileged children in Indian slums are some of the points of interest to them.

Sure enough, the age of the Spiritual Manager is likely to dawn upon us rather early.

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KISS FREQUENTLYKISS FREQUENTLY

Managements are well-known for their propensity to give priority to business targets, and to hell with all the systems, controls and procedures! So, go in for systems which are simple and can be operated by idiots. Auditors will keep coming up with new SoPs. Before rolling these out, a manager would do well to apply the KISS (Keep It Simple and Stupid) test.

LAWYERS

Choose a lawyer based on the gravity of the issue at hand. Local lawyers are pretty effective for minor matters. For global issues affecting the industry, get your HO to rope in the second best in the country. This way, you will get first-rate attention, service and results.

LEADERS

Management can be learnt; leadership is inborn. The good news is that in some cases, leadership styles trickle down the organization, and get copied, thereby improving the behavioral consistency across the set up.

Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said “To lead the people, walk behind them”. LEADERS

LOGIC VS EMOTION

Formal education systems lead us to depend more on the mind, which thrives on logic alone. However, the heart is the seat of emotions, and has intelligence of its own. The power of intuition flows from the heart, and so does empathy. To survive and do well in the corporate jungle, managers need both in equal measure!

LONELINESS BLUES

The men at the top are a lonely lot, with no one to share their blues with. Special care needs to be taken to ensure they have a circle of neutral confidantes who can help them in retaining their balance and perspective on issues facing the organization from time to time.

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