Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The curious case of the corrupt manager.

While I have a huge votary of tabbed browsing thanks to Firefox, toggling between ten open tabs (almost all work related, but at least one with some eye candy), waiting for one to load or not load whatever is the case and making phone calls trying to discovery the intracacies of why consumers love or hate alloy wheels among other things, I haven't been able to blog much of late. OK, so lets get down to it. One issue people have been talking about of late has been the Vivek Prakash fraud at Samsung.
The crux of the case is that this man supposedly embezzled Rs 18 crores from Samsung. Now, Prakash did his PGDM from IIM-B and the discovery of this case has led to several IIM-ites mourning the loss of innocence of their institutions. Whaaaaa?
Recently, I was at a dinner where I was talking top two senior editors and one mentioned a very pertinent fact - the IIM's produced the private sector equivalent of the IAS - they produced the bureaucracy for the private sector. Now, by this I don't mean to use 'bureaucracy' as a dirty word - but that was essentially their function. Now, the government bureaucracy has become riddled with corruption, so much so that now mythical tales of the levels of corruption in India are flooding discussion-boards across the internet. The point is that Vivek Prakash being corrupt is not something to be mourned but studied a bit more. Corruption is endemic in India, to the point it is part of our value-system.
Corruption happens at several levels. Techies and Managers were aghast when Intel rid itself of 500 people because they fudged Travel Reports. Again discussion boards were full of comments criticising the American company, similar sorts of boards that bitch about corruption of the police and MPs. But isdn't fudging reports for personal gain (of any sort) 'corruption'? We laugh when gullible tribal Members of Parliament are conned by Rs 10000, but when you over-charge your company for Rs 20000 during a one-month trip its good? I would reckon that many of these 550 people were fairly well educated and very middle class.
The probelm with Indians, and sorry to stereotype everybody and tar them all with the same brush - but sadly life kind of highlights stereotypes - is that we'ld do anything for a fast buck. The amount of times people try to scam their way to success isn't funny.
We'll con as much as the opportunity allows us, so if we are a High Court Judge in Delhi granting stay orders to demolitions on a particular street, we would do it for a 'sexy massage'. Bureaucrats would do it for more, lets not even start with City Planners. Politicians do the same - but here is another point I would wish to make - a Member of Parliament faces a lot of costs - every MP has to put up thousands of guests at his official Delhi residence every month, who come to Delhi for reasons ranging from Medical Care to Travel. This costs money, and for this, politicians are not paid by the Union of India. Plus, if you are unfortunate to be a MP for the BSP, you will have to make money hand over foot to pay your leader (to whom you would have anyway paid a seven or eight figure sum to get elected). Sadly, this means that money has to come into the system from somewhere - even dotcoms would do. And to some well-intentioned friends out there who are screaming 'Ban Lobbyists' I would suggest they take a one-way flight to Pyongyang.
But then again, we all know that politicians, bureaucrats, the judiciary (at least the lower levels) and government officials of all colours, shapes and sizes are on the whole rather corrupt. Our only saving grace is that we're not Bangladesh.
Anyway, back to the point of the post, Vivek Prakash was a lot of things - I've met him and my most overwhelming memory - the guy was a megalomaniac in the Rajeev Karwal mode. But Prakash also knew that journalists were corrupt and took full advantage of that - Samsung not only took journalists of junkets to South Korea but also lavished all sorts of gifts (big white/grey boxes) on them. But he is not an aberration - he might have overdone things a bit - but he is just the tip of the iceberg. Because the private sector is as bad as the public sector. Promoters skivvying funds from the company books to pay for their daughters wedding or executives living lives way beyond their means are not new stories. Heck, two of India's most 'respected' businessmen have ethics problems - one dabbles in the markets ion a scrip he holds an overwhelming majority in (but then again, insider trading is endemic in India) another withdrew his groups adverts from a large publication house because they dared to write the truth about his involvement in a financial scam. And we aren't even talking about Reliance Industries over here.
Vivek Prakash got caught! But we continue to celebrate the rest. In case, he didn't get caught, some of us media people would be celebrating the IIM-B alum today. Oh, and to point out that this in no way has changed my stand on shadier MBA institutes - the IAS is still the most sought after job after a liberal arts education and IIM's will continue to be the most sought after job after a technical education. Going to the other schools (save a few, but including the Indian blogosphere's favourite non-accredited school) would mean that you'll end up as a doorman or something.
Just a couple of links again - I knew the Japanese are a strange race, but whoa!
AdAge has posted the top-10 adverts of 2005 that the US (and India) will never see. Raaaaaceee!


livinghigh said...

huh? wha-?

have been hopelessly behind the news, i guess. sigh.

hornygurrl said...

Don't blame prakash K...many journos...big and small... accept from companies....and from Prakash's ex company.

Bonatellis said...

if u ever plan to do a case study on how journalists fudge travel reports, you need to work for the ABP group for a while.
when I started my career in the ABP group in calcutta, senior journalists from the two main group newspapers used to take classes on how fudging is done. Those days, any travel report used to be bloated at least 3x-5x.
and not just the journalists, even the photographers.
like in the police where cops vie for plum postings to ensure getting more bribes, reporters used to butter the bureau chiefs for more and more assignments in far-flung districts and in adjacents states - jamshedpur, ranchi, bhubaneshwar, guwahati ...

all said and done, those were the days !!!

rums said...

k i know someone from et who not only got samsung to cart a washing machine all the way from south korea on his way back from a junket but also called up the pr late at night to get it cleared from customs :)

rums said...

oh and before i forget, a very senior editor at b'bay et used to holiday with his family regularly with a pr firm head. and no prizes for guessing who paid the bills!

Anonymous said...

My own observation is should scams in private firms begin to count, (in the media) they will make those committed by IAS's in the govt look like petty thefts. Private CEO are spared of the constant media focus that IAS are subjected to, the public/NGO.opp cry foul each time a officer makes a wrong move but pvt CEO; can committ colossal blunders and get away. No wacthdogs in the pvt. Basically, the succesful pvt croporate can never figure out where their money is coming from and who to punish when they ant'