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Satyam: 'A job well done'

The  full board of Satyam Computers meets today--June 11-- for the first time, after the bizarre and shame making events that  besmirched the company's reputation six months ago.  It will include the government nominees  who helped run the business  in recent weeks, restoring  painful  inch by inch its  professional reputation  and  -- in large measure  -- the confidence of its clients and investors.
 
' Our job is  done' Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed  said yesterday -- and  added that  the government nominees --Kiran Karnik, Deepak Parekh and C Achuthan  as well as Tarun Das and TM Manoharan-- are now ready to step down  leaving Tech Mahindra, the company that  has taken over Satyam after an open and transparent process, to  put in place its own leadership team.
 
Good governance will tell -- even in the short term:  In the last few days,  Satyam, astonished the market  when its shares  hit  over Rs 73 -- well above the Rs 58 price at which it was valued for the Tech Mahindra takeover.  The markets were responding to the news that  Satyam had booked  a profit  of 1.6 billion rupees   during  the quarter  ending December 2008 --  modest, but a clear signal that it was once more ' business as usual' .  Our photo atop this  item   is strangely ironical. "Count on us to transform  the game of business" reads the hoarding at Bangalore International  airport -- celebrating Satyam's selection as lead IT provider for the 2010 FIFA Cup in South Africa.  They did transform the game of business in ways no one ever expected -- but thanks to  the resilience of the Indian IT  brand and  the Indian government's  firm  and professional intervention, the  game has transformed  again and Satyam is back in play.
 
Let us take a  minute to  recognise  how this happened. 
The Indian outsourced services business including  all of Satyam's  competitors,    behaved with maturity in the face of Satyam's adversity. They did not poach for Satyam's   known talent, nor try to  grab its  business in an aggressive way. The government on its part,   tapped the top talents of Enterprise India when it came to  selecting Satytam's transition management -- instead of succumbing to its normal instincts of packing babus into the board. 
 
The result? India has shown the world that it  is a mature economy, operating within the frame work of a democratic government and a free market. It is  not immune - who is, these days -- to the actions of individual rogue traders and business people. But it  has the self confidence   and the systemic checks to correct itself and move forward. There have been no mass sackings at Satyam. The work force – we always knew they were great techie guys – remained loyal; and now their loyalty has been vindicated – as  has the confidence of  those Satyam clients who did not cut and run. 
 
There is  yet, work to be done. Tech Mahindra   will have its own ideas and game plans for its acquisition. It  must be allowed the rescuer's privilege of putting them into place.  
The country’s legal system  must act without delay and bring to swift  and fair closure, the process of  identifying the guilty. And if initial zeal has seen the   the law enforcement agencies  sequestering any who are not directly culpable, they must be restored their freedom without  a day’s delay.   Putting external auditors behind bars seems at first glance, to be something of an over reaction and unless government has a clear case that the individuals actively colluded with Satyam, it would be unjust to include them in the net of those alleged to be have perpetrated the fraud. Indian corporate governance has delivered a swift conclusion to the task of getting Satyam back on rails. Indian jurisprudence can do no less.
 
So on a day when it becomes the 999,999th word of the English language,  let us flog it, for the last time we promise, and say Jai Ho! to the Second Coming of Satyam.
 
- Anand Parthasarathy