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Working In Times Rife with Corruption

by S.Srinivasan, PGP-70

Representational Image. Courtesy: Sandip Karangiya, Unsplash

Ethical behavior in management in the 70s in the Indian context was difficult to find. The businessmen then had to survive by hook or by crook and earn profits. So they conveniently built it into the system with a money value for corruption. We alumni as well other professionals and accountants were expected to fall in line and move with the system.

In my first job with a small trading firm, I had to do some drafting work using my WEC (Written Executive Communication) skills, and to follow up on overdue collection. The partner was happy telling his clients that he had an MBA from a reputed school– we were sort of an ornamental piece for the firm. I left the firm asI did not see a great future there.

When I later joined an engineering firm, I had the opportunity to work closely with the senior management of the company. I had to be the eyes and ears of the CMD and report on the progress of production, materials, and marketing on a day to day basis. The CMD, an IAS officer, practiced a sort of top down managerial approach rather than a decentralized system. I had to do a sort of spying job there though the CMD termed it as MIS (Management Information Systems). This sort of moral policing of senior executives of a company contrasts with a transparent and open system of governance. To me, it looked like hitting at the very root of individual dignity and freedom.

I had to face a tough time while with a Public Food Grains Distribution PSU. It was about awarding a C & F (Clearing and Forwarding) agency contract for clearing of imported cargo at ports for the company. But before the day of the meeting for this  purpose with the contractors, I found the drawer with the tender documents, in my custody, broken open and documents mishandled. This was a great shock to me! What can you do on such occasions except to bring it to the notice of higher ups in the organization? However this was not to the liking of my immediate superior.

Even in normal life outside the office, corruption was common to get your things done right, in India, from getting your driving license to power connection, telephone, train travel etc. You had to either argue it out or fight or face consequences like delays etc. This has consumed much of the energies of people like me in the middle class whereas those who could afford it did not seem to pay a serious  attention to this social evil.

The shock of my life  was when I tried to occupy a seat in the compartment of a bogey stationed in the yard in Bombay Central (now Mumbai Central) station. I was threatened by the thugs there, who were cornering the seats  to make a few bucks out of it. My complaints to the station master on this were of no avail. Perhaps that was  a regular occurrence on which he had little control.

On one occasion, when I tried to return some goods which turned out to be defective. I found the trader from Ahmedabad who sold the item to me, was quite rude and refused to listen to me. This was in strange contrast to my experience in the US where the companies had a clear return policy on their products and had set up counters to handle such complaints.

However, where we have to deliver services to clients we were different and no corrupt dealings were encouraged. Almost followed the dictum that ‘the customer is king.’

The star in the dark cloud was companies that valued probity high even in those days. These were Tatas, TVS group companies, Parle (who was my employer for sometime), Bajaj Enterprises etc. These companies showed that integrity not only enhances your market standing but also enhances brand value. However I remember a case of one company, in the Real Estate sector in Chennai, that  followed fair business practices, but had to close down business after completing a few projects.

More important point that I observed was this– I faced problems of mismatch of my expectations in job and work culture in quite a few situations, where I felt one could have gotten along well without a professional degree. This has led to job switching till I found my comfort zone. For me this was the academic line which seemed best to fit my temperament.

The institute has to sensitize the students on the issue of Probity in Management, discuss  Shanmugam Manjunath’s case (a management professional working with an Oil Major who was murdered for sealing a corrupt petrol pump in Uttar Pradesh) and other cases developed from the experience base of their vast network of alumni. These will provide appropriate course content for  their ethics class. This will prepare them to face and handle probity issues ably and creatively, in addition to their being change agents in the management process.

AUTHOR: admin
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