Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Corporate responsibility

I do not watch serials on TV, but recently I happened to watch a few minutes of the kannada serial 'Minchu', directed by T.N. Seetharam.

What was going on was this. X, the managing director of a company, has an assistant Y. Now, there is another person Z, who is in need of money for her daughter's wedding, and approaches the finance department of the company for assistance. Z has already taken a housing loan and is still repaying it. Because of that, the finance department agrees to loan only a small amount of money. Z approaches Y, who takes her case to the MD and convinces the MD to increase the loan amount.

Okay, this was just an instance in a TV serial. But it was directed by Seetharam, and we can be sure that he thought it out well, before bringing it on screen. No one can deny that a company is responsible for its employees. But there is only so much anybody can do for anybody else. Even when it is possible, it is not right to cross those limits. What if all the employees of the company (or even half of them, for that matter), ask for loans, for genuine reasons? What would X have done?

Being complacent that someone higher-up is going to bail one out of all difficulties is bad. Unfortunately, I guess that is how we humans are wired (I sometimes wonder if it is just an Indian trait!). Some people always expect that rich companies help mend the bad roads, help government-run schools, and generally donate money generously for all causes.

Recently, I read an article that I received by email, written by Ravi Belagere. It was an open letter to Sudha Murthy. I respect Ravi Belagere a lot for his views, but this article struck me as very odd. Apparently M.P. Prakash, our erstwhile Dy. Chief minister, told Ravi Belagere that he asked all the IT majors to donate money for the development of infrastructure and various other things, and apparently all of them replied that "they would get back on this issue", but have not gotten back since then.

That is not all. Belagere rants about how all flyovers are near the IT offices, how the rich IT companies do not care about the necessities of the farmer whose land was destroyed by floods and about poor children who do not have access to education, how Bangalore became so very costly because of the IT companies.

To an extent, what he says is true. There is too much immigration from other parts of India to Bangalore. Cost of living is escalating. Rents have touched an all-time high. The traffic-situation is abysmal. Rather than spend evenings quietly with books, the youth prefer to hang out at malls. Ask any highschool kid, he/she wants to be a software engineer and nothing else. It is like they do not have any rolemodel in any other field. Good teachers, scientists and the like are hardly to be found. These developments are not good.

But how wise is it to blame the IT industry for everything? Businesses are there because they are in demand. An IT company exists because there are sponsors and shareholders and customers. And people work for IT companies because they pay them enough money to give good education to their kids and build bigger houses. Even IT companies get tax subsidies from the government because they generate revenue and create more wealth. Engineering colleges hiked their fees because of the high salaries the students may get once they finish their education.

And it is not like the IT companies do not do anything for the society. At R's company, there was this quarterly event where each person of the team was paired with a kid from a nearby government school. At the end of the event, R gave him his phone number, and asked him to call if he needed any help. True, such events are few and far between, but that is a start, and a good one at that. RSS has a few orphanages and schools ('anaatha shishu nivaasa', 'aruna chetana', etc) that thrive on donations by 'Professionals in Seva'. The Infosys Foundation has also done a lot of social work.

As harsh as it may sound, companies are answerable to their shareholders, and that is how their policies are made. M.P Prakash cannot complain against global companies without plugging the corrupt holes in his own ministry.

21 comments:

Aram said...

Thanks a lot for writing on a topic very much after my heart and upon which I would have loved to write in a highly scathing manner.

You have beautifully, albeit a little too mildly, yet with clear logic voiced my own thoughts.

I think I too have read this Ravi B's open letter to Sudha Murty in his tabloid some long time back.

Sudha Murty was the one who donated 7 crores of her personal money to the Bangalore City Corporation so that its citizens could defecate and piss in style in stead of relieving themselves like dogs.

After more than two long years the BCC spent the money and erected Nirmala toilets across the city. How many of them are functioning properly today is better left unsaid.

The IT companies made Bangalore world famous.

Even Premiers and Prime Ministers of leading countries would make a beeline to Bangalore and even before meeting the State's dignitaries they would pay a visit first to the highest temple of the corporate world, Infosys.

The contribution of Bangalore's IT companies to Karnataka's exchequer can be appreciated only when they decide to migrate en masse to Hosur in TN.

The entire State's annual revenue would fall down by more than half.

Where does all this money go? Are there proper accounts and transparency?

It is time the IT companies went on a strike; or even better: close their shops in this Karkotaka Rajya where in stead of getting appreciated they are treated as if they are the main culprits responsible for every conceivable ill plaguing the State.

I am sorely reminded of Ayn Rand's masterpiece Atlas Shrugged written in the 1950s.

When the creators of wealth are condemned and treated badly, it is time they went on a long strike.

The height of the insult was when the living legend, the iconic Narayana Murthy was branded a traitor and land grabber. A man who commands our highest respect and love.

Let the wise men like Dev ve Ghoda and Anatha Murthy rule the roost and let the city go to the dogs and beggars with all its IT companies closed in the State.

How I wish a Lee Kuan Yew would take birth here and take charge!

Aram said...

Thanks a lot for writing on a topic very much after my heart and upon which I would have loved to write in a highly scathing manner.

You have beautifully, albeit a little too mildly, yet with clear logic voiced my own thoughts.

I think I too have read this Ravi B's open letter to Sudha Murty in his tabloid some long time back.

Sudha Murty was the one who donated 7 crores of her personal money to the Bangalore City Corporation so that its citizens can defecate and piss in style in stead of relieving themselves like dogs.

After more than two long years the BCC spent the money and erected Nirmala toilets across the city. How many of them are functioning properly today is better left unsaid.

The IT companies made Bangalore world famous.

Even Premiers and Prime Ministers of leading countries would make a beeline to Bangalore and even before meeting the State's dignitaries they would pay a visit first to the highest temple of the corporate world, Infosys.

The contribution of Bangalore's IT companies to Karnataka's exchequer can be appreciated only when they decide to migrate en masse to Hosur in TN.

The entire State's annual revenue would fall down by more than half.

Where does all this money go? Are there proper accounts and transparency?

It is time the IT companies went on a strike; or even better: close their shops in this Karkotaka Rajya where in stead of getting appreciated they are treated as if they are the main culprits responsible for every conceivable ill plaguing the State.

I am sorely reminded of Ayn Rand's masterpiece Atlas Shrugged written in the 1950s.

When the creators of wealth are condemned and treated badly, it is time they went on a long strike.

The height of the insult was when the living legend, the iconic Narayana Murthy was branded a traitor and land grabber. A man who commands our highest respect and love.

Let the wise men like Dev ve Ghoda and Anatha Murthy rule the roost and let the city go to the dogs and beggars with all its IT companies closed in the State.

How I wish a Lee Kuan Yew would take birth here and take charge!

Bit Hawk said...

Very well written! I remember reading this article on "Hai Bangalore". Though I like Ravi Belagere's views on many other things, this just amazed me. I feel this thinking is very Indian (I sometimes wonder if "Robinhood" was inspired by some Indian story!) "If-you-are-rich-gimme-half-of-what-you-got" is a very sick attitude. If you are rich, you "can" donate something to the society (It should be a "can" and cant be a "should" ;)). If you dont want to, that should be fine too.

I think people who criticize IT are jealous of the young people who make good money at such a young age (even the mediocre ones in IT industries)

December Stud said...

Yes, I rememebr reading that Ravi Belagere article a looooong time back....still when MP Prakash had power.

The same thoughts went through my mind. How easy to blame someone because they don't do what you want them to do. Oh well...

Responsibilities sure come with duties and accountability.

Good take on the subject. But, i do think you should forgive TNS for it's "just another" serial ;)

P.S: Brillaint chaupadis on chitrakavana. I just loved them!!!

ABBA said...

"Ask any highschool kid, he/she wants to be a software engineer and nothing else. It is like they do not have any rolemodel in any other field."

I am glad our Andy was an exception together with 2000 other students at the IISc.

Though it was suggested to him that Infosys and TCS provided excellent training facilities, he was quite sure that he did not want to become a code writing coolie.

Spurning better offers, he opted to join TI which he said was doing work which he liked.

nIlagrIva said...

This article of Ravi Belagere which you've written about struck a raw nerve in me a long time ago. So raw that I decided it was not worth writing a post about.

Ravi Belagere is on the border of the LLL (Loony Left Liberal) group, an acronym fondly used by littlegreenfootballs.com for such people. I like his other articles a lot. But his views sometimes really irritate me (supporting Naxals, for instance). Let me stop dwelling on that for now.

The perception that businessmen are bad people has been spread by cinema and popular discourse as well. Non-business people who were young in the 60s still think that way (RB being one of them). Gurcharan Das discusses this enduring perception in his "India Unbound". He feels that businessmen are not as appreciated as they should be.

Aram, about Narayana Murthy, I feel we shouldn't be praising businessmen in unrelated areas. When he's helping himself, he's just being a good businessman. He shouldn't be praised for all he does. For example, I heard that he raised a concern in an AvaraNa review function that there were no female reviewers talking. Why does he have to extend his corporate guidelines to the world? He should stop pontificating on matters that don't concern him directly. Part of the blame can be laid on the media for lapping up every word he utters and reporting it, sometimes totally out of context. He has a sphere of influence and has to be respected in that sphere, IMHO - not more and definitely not less.


And MP Prakash is not the Dy.CM as the piece tries to say. (He probably was when that piece was written by RB)

Aram said...

@ Nilgriva:

As usual, your comments, just like your posts, are quite insightful.

I agree that NRNM "should stop pontificating on matters that don't concern him directly."

Like the way much bigger corporates like TCS and WIPRO keep an ultra low profile.

Still, in spite of everything, NRNM will remain an icon worthy of my worship.

parijata said...

@Aram:
Yes, the Infosys Foundation has done better work, more efficiently than the BCC has ever done.

These politicians just do not get it. Would anybody invest in a company which diverted its dividend money to building roads just because an inefficient government begged them to, instead of giving it to the shareholders?

If other, smaller cities in Karnataka become connected by air, I am sure even the IT companies will want to set up shop there. It makes business sense for them, too! But I am sure another group will start crying if any attempt in that direction is made.

I have not read 'Atlas Shrugged', but want to read it soon.

@bit hawk:
Agree with you. A while ago, there was this article in Taranga, when the Pratibha (the call center employee) case happened. Somebody happened to interview this guy who killed her, and apparently he said "I did not like that others were making so much money"! That was an outrageous statement!

@DS:
I like the way TNS addresses relevant issues in an artistic way, in his serials. But he is a known communist and I do not agree with his views, most of the times. When Mukta was being aired, he was in the news once for supporting Naxals. He subtly voices communist ideology, often. But yes, 'minchu' is just another serial.

Thanks for the comment on the chaupadis on chitrakavana.

@abba,
Glad to know about Andy. I am hoping that my little biyadiya will choose to study Pure Science. He loves looking at pictures of Saturn and Jupiter and spaceships :)

@nIlagrIva,
I read this article a little while ago (yes, after Yediyurappa became the Dy.CM.. While writing, in the heat of the moment, I conveniently forgot that MP Prakash was no longer in power).

What you say about businessmen is true. RB, himself is a businessman. I would expect him to think better than this..

About the Avarana issue, I think that SLB's novels are a little difficult for women to talk about, that too on stage. But isn't it odd that there are no well-known female writers or reviewers in Kannada? I can think of only a couple of names, off the top of my head. Well, that merits a separate post, IMO.

Iznogoud said...

"M.P Prakash cannot complain against global companies without plugging the corrupt holes in his own ministry." ---

FYI: Parkash has given up the fight and has announced his political sanyasa. He has said that he is too tired of the politics of money and muscle power and has also confessed that he could not help being part of this vicious circle.

At least one conscience-bitten honest voice!!!

Does anybody care?

parijata said...

@Iznogoud:
That M.P Prakash chose political sannyaasa shows that he was at least trying to be honest, though drawn deep into the quagmire of our politics.

But why are these conscience-bitten honest voices heard only at retirement?

Unfortunately for our country, honest people do not choose to lead. We are stuck with selfish and incompetent leaders who do not have any pride and are ready to resort to begging whenever it is possible.

And I want to make one thing clear. To me, the problem is about RB accusing IT companies of being 'detrimental to the state's progress' and MP Prakash "expecting" those companies to help the government build roads and stuff.

Iznogoud said...

Yes, indeed ! Both RB and the minister are unreasonable.

"Unfortunately for our country, honest people do not choose to lead." -- This indeed is our biggest problem.

Letz ask a question to ourselves -if we are honest, young, educated and very much concerned about social and political issues what is preventing us from choosing to lead - from our own streets and wards? - Iznogoud

ABBA said...

Biyadiya: A physicist and astronomer in the making.

Dr. Srinivasa Kulkarni, Prof. and Head, Dept. of Astronomy, UCAL hails from Hubli and also studied school for some years in Bellary.

He is the discoverer of Big Bang II, in 1997 and was nominated for the Nobel. Also, one of the few Indian Fellows of the Royal Society.

Even while in Central School, Hubli, he used to solve maths problems of his 3 college-going sisters.

He studied Physics at IIT, Delhi and while attending some lecture in Ooty he was hooked onto Astronomy and proceeded to the U.S. for his doctoral studies.

His mother, Smt. Vimalabai Kulkarni happens to be the richest mother-in-law with two billionaire sons-in-law, namely, Narayana Murthy in software and Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande of Boston who made his billions from hardware (holds many patents in routers and networking).

Smt. Vimalabai is reported to have translated many of Srinivas's writings as also other books on Astronomy into Kannada.

Now into her 80s, she lives in Jayanagar 4th T block - if interested in meeting her to talk about her only son's passion in astronomy.

December Stud said...

@ nIlagrIva:

Excellent comment, no surprises there. Pretty much summed up my take.

LOL @ LLL, never heard that before.

NRN certainly has his sphere of influence, as you aptly put it. But, the fact that he commented on no female reviewer being there was probably not just another corporate philosophy. It certainly helps take all the views, especially for literary reviews. So, I will just give him the benefit of doubt....

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

It is strange, indeed, how we think it is our right to demand things out of the blue from others, and how we think that charity is our right rather than a favour we seek. Very nice and insightful post... I'll keep visiting.

Aram said...

@Sudipta Chatterjee:

"Each one contributing to others according to one's ability, and every one else demanding according to one's personal needs and whims ...."

This attitude of moral insolvency and how it leads to chaos and total collapse of the economy has been beautifully portrayed in Ayn Rand's epic "Atlas Shrugged" written in 1950.

The old saying, "Beg, borrow, or steal" needs to be expanded now to read "Beg, borrow, steal, or extort."

parijata said...

@iznogoud:
Honestly, I do not know the answer. Is it because honest people think that there is no place for them in the world of Politics?

@abba:
I hope my little one becomes a physicist. But I do not want to thrust any of my ideas upon him. Just want to show him a few roads that he can take, and let him choose. Thanks for the information about Dr.Srinivasa Kulakarni. I will keep an eye out for his books.

@Sudipta Chatarjee:
Welcome to my blog. Yes, that kind of an attitude is really sickening.

@Aram:
"Each one contributing to others according to one's ability, and every one else demanding according to one's personal needs and whims ...."
That is exactly the problem with communism. Nobody wants to contribute, everyone just demands.

Aram said...

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Aram said...

-- "Honestly, I do not know the answer.(why we do not want to take a lead in politics). Is it because honest people think that there is no place for them in the world of Politics?" --


One answer was aptly provided by my hero, N.R. Narayana Murthy when he was asked to run for the post of President of India.

He said something like this: his expertise was limited to leading a group of people with a well-defined common objective, that is the people in his company. Politics meant trying to lead a much bigger divergent group with often conflicting objectives and interests. He said he was not capable of it.

mouna said...

what u say is true. one cannot really blame both the sides. some IT companies have been doing a bit. yes. above all this, i think that the whole system should change if anything is to be brought about. that's a dream dreamt by all.

about fees at college: a popular college in the city charges >50,000 for a BA(per year)course. the reason being that the students get employed in call centres and they earn good pay. but that shouldn't be the case. i'm sure that my college has better faculty than the other one, and charges pretty less for the same. imagine paying 50 grand for one year for a BA. it's simply atrocious!!

another thing that i'd like to mention(though it seems pretty far from the topic) is civic sense. it's vanishing day by day. if people do realise that, some relief is surely at reach. it may not concern the traffic situation in the city as such, but it would make it a better place to live in.

Aram said...

"Ask any highschool kid, he/she wants to be a software engineer and nothing else. It is like they do not have any rolemodel in any other field......"

It is ironic that in this age of information technology, we have so little information on which careers pay how much at what stage.

Here is a little known role model.

Last week I met my nephew Nitin in Mumbai. The strapping, 6.2 footer, 26-year-old has done C.A. in Ahmedabad and CPA in the U.S., and now works at Merrill Lynch in Mumbai - his first job. Joining as an Analyst, today he is an Associate, earning half a million a month, with a matching annual bonus. His job - advising MNCs on mergers and acquisitions and such like.

My aunt, Dr. Meera was remarking that her entire salary in Govt. service as Prof. over 3 decades did not equal his one month's salary.

The moral probably is whatever we do, if we do it exceedingly well, will make us successful.

Like for example, Bindeshwari Pathak of Sulabh Shauchalaya...

There is money even in scrap.

Anonymous said...

north indian immigrants to this city have spoilt our bangalore. they have no respect for our culture , our people and our languages.
they earn a lot (which im not against) and they throw the money around without a thought for the average bangalorean who is finding it very difficult to survive with the prevailing prices.
i hope we get our old bangalore back, but thats just wishful thinking.