Riding the tiger…

Having seen the sad spectacle of a well respected company with over 50,000 employees and perhaps 300,000+ dependents being brought down by the madness of a man (Family?), the question that comes to mind is – how many others are currently finding it difficult to dismount a tiger?

It is amazing to think that most probably Raju family did not have to do any crooked thing to be rich & famous. The honest men like Narayana Murthy have done it, without owning as much stake in Infosys as Raju family had owned in Satyam. But, Raju’s chose to ride a tiger.

If they had chosen not to fudge the accounts, and showed decrease in profits (or even loss when it occured), The worst case scenario for them would’ve been that – they’d have lost management control of satyam. Some professional managers who probably would be better equipped to manage the company would’ve come in and made the company profitable. It had everything going for it – but, they chose to put their pride/greed ahead of welfare of many. Perhaps a million people will be effected by that greed now.

At some level there are following lessons to everyone:

1. Tigers like the one Raju’s chose to ride, don’t come announcing.You may not recognise it when it comes and you may not even realise you have mounted the tiger and when you realise it may be too late.

2. We all may be riding our own small little tigers, and finding it hard to get off them. It may have something to do with one-up-man ship like ‘my house is bigger than yours’ (Just as Raju’s wanted to show Satyam profits were bigger than other Indian IT companies?). At some point not getting off these little tigers may cause our downfall too?

3. Not realizing what our true legacy will be – A profitable and long lasting satyam would’ve been the best legacy Raju could’ve had. Not money. The shining example is NRN Murthy. He is sort of retired, but is most respected for the legacy he left behind. If Raju’s had created a company that employed even half of what it employs now, but left it to professional managers at the right time their legacy would’ve lived on. After al, There can’t be any better pleasure in life, than creating something that outlives your involvement and sustains thousands of families? How do you put a financial value to something like that??

4.  Human tendencies are same – which is why we need to have strong regulation. Whether it is Madoff, Enron or now Satyam – Greed and madness is a human trait, which needs to be tempered with vigilence and strong punishment. It’d be really sad if our laws can’t punish Raju’s, not only because they deserve strong punishment. But, not punishing them swiftly and demonstrably will create more Satyams.

I feel bad for all the loyal and hardworking employees at Satyam, who may now be finding themselfs up the creek without a paddle. To all of them, I wish good luck and an advice:

This too shall pass. Have faith in your abilities.