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A case study on Satyam
April, 30th 2009

Hopping jets, raising money for school, advising political leaders across the world, teaching courses, working with government agencies, writing books and articles, rubbing shoulders with corporate captains on boards, suggesting to students practical marriage strategies, and more

Living a whole new life, after a quintuple bypass surgery (five for the price of one), Bala V. Balachandran, Founder and Hon Dean of Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai (www.greatlakes.edu.in), is in no mood to slow down. The more and more you think a job is a joy and not a job, five years or ten years become yesterday or five minutes, begins Bala, when we meet on the eve of the big day when his new green campus -- located in Manamai Village, Mamallapuram -- was to be inaugurated.

Now that it is clear that the American model has problems, where do we go for solutions, he demands? The answer can be from Indian education and moral leadership, Bala hopes.

Excerpts from the interview.

On academia included in corporate boards.

There are a few things that professors who act as independent directors can ensure. First, why should financial statements be discussed at short notice? Why not we insist that sufficient time be devoted, prior to the exercise say, ten days?

Second, why should we not take an active role in educating the senior management, without taking a fee? Because, if you take a fee, and it is exorbitant, then there is a question of independence-impairment.

Thus, we need standards for independent directors. Also, we should be proactive, knowing that we have a fiduciary responsibility, despite not being privy to day-in-day-out activities.

I also dont understand how somebody can be a director in twenty companies, while continuing as a full-time employee at some other place, or as an entrepreneur. You cannot do that. Such a director could be hurting. You dont need a Sarbanes-Oxley Act or Clause 49 to tell you this. When I see a list of twenty board memberships, I wonder if he or she is taking a rubber-stamp position.

On the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, the new school.

Working along with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, we want to ensure that this new school takes as students, people with entrepreneurial talent from the rural poor, gives them all the academic and practical inputs to make them a Dhirubhai Ambani or Ratan Tata.

On a case study about Satyam.

The Union Minister for Corporate Affairs, Mr Prem Chand Gupta, and I are writing a case study, making a story of Satyam and Enron combined, and it will discuss the questions of fraud, corporate governance and so on. Deadline for the case is May 31. For the first time, a public servant, a Minister, is suddenly interested in coming up with a case to challenge the Harvard cases; it is great for this country.

Enron took two-and-a-half years to three years to go around. In the case of Satyam, the Government created a fantastic board with Deepak Parekh and others, and made sure the company could be sold to Tech Mahindra. Nowhere in the world have we seen such a swift action, resolving things in less than six months.

There is a general feeling that public servants are not so smart. I think they are smarter than some of the private entrepreneurs.

 
 
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