The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India Inc’s model hunt ends at Gandhi

New Delhi, Sept. 18: Corporate honchos have been scurrying for cover ever since a spate of accounting scandals world-wide tore carefully built reputations to shreds.

Revered CEOs like Kenneth Lay of Enron and Bernard Ebbers of WorldCom have taken a bad rap after scams hit companies in US and lately even corporate icons like Jack Welch— going through a messy divorce suit — have found their escutcheons smudged.

At a time when corporate reputations have turned to dust, it seemed appropriate for corporate India to indulge in some navel gazing too and pop the question: are there are any corporate icons in India that a young entrepreneur could look up to and emulate'

The short answer: No. Three of India’s best known names—N. R. Narayan Murthy of Infosys, M. S. Banga of Hindustan Lever and Sam Pitroda of WorldTel—reckoned that good corporate leaders need to have solid ethical underpinnings and corporate India would do well to imbibe good old-fashioned Gandhian principles.

Speaking at the CII leadership summit here today, Infosys chairman N. R. Narayana Murthy said good corporate governance needs good and ethical leaders. “Greed and short-term orientation have been the main reasons for violating corporate governance rules,” said Murthy. “We need people in this industry who will walk the talk of demonstrating the value systems just as Gandhi did.”

Murthy also believed that leaders should build trust and confidence in their employees. “This puts a premium on transparency. Investors respect such organisations and will always want their leaders to level with them at all times.”

Murthy was in favour of penalising CEOs who refuse to follow the codes and ethics of corporate governance. “We operate in a feudal society. We need to believe our leaders, their walk and their talk,” he added.

Murthy said there should be equitable compensation among the top-ranking employees and the average employee. “The difference between the basic salary of an average employee and that of a top-ranking official should not exceed more than 15 times,” he added.

Banga said the precursor to truth is trust and trust in business is through a formal system of 360-degree feedback. He said all companies need to imbibe are the qualities of “truth, courage, action and care.”

Narrating Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology, Banga said, “We must change ourselves before er change others.” Banga also said consumers would now choose brands not only on the basis of brand loyalty and traditional values but also on the basis of brand benefits behind it. In addition, employees today wish to stand for companies who work for something more than profits.”

Sam Pitroda, chief executive officer, WorldTel said, “Leadership is about leading an organisation with multiple resources and creating a vision. This requires a capability package in one single person. A leader as one who has character, values and vision. He must be strong in communication, planning, conflict resolution, show love for all, be able to empower people, and display simplicity, sacrifice and transparency.”

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