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The SME CEO Peer Group

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Business Vs Ethics Tradeoffs In India

Most Indians are not unethical in the day-to-day life. You'll find numerous incidents where an auto rickshaw or a cab driver has returned your wallet, or a shopkeeper may have pointed out that you have paid extra money or vice versa. We don't usually find fraudsters in our routine life. Not every day we are being cheated by someone. I have travelled across the country by road and have met many people who would empathise with you and assist you. Most of the people in rural India are humble and simple, and they are also introvert and shy.


The changing face of corporate India

In the last two decades, we have witnessed that media has lamented corporate brands of India for frauds. From IT companies to diamond merchants, from manufacturing companies to service companies, from banking to public administrations, time and again everyone has been subjected to the scrutiny of the public or law. Corporate ethical failures have become painfully familiar around the world, and they aren’t cheap. In the last decade, billions of dollars have been paid in fines by companies charged with ethical breaches. While it may seem that an increase in vigilance and a rigorous implementation of governance policies is the solution to the problem, it may work as a temporary solution, but it isn't the real solution.


We don't have societal problems; they are mere results

If we wish to solve this issue, we have to dig deeper into the subject matter. I firmly believe that what we are facing - the challenges are in fact just the result of our cultural practices. Be it the case corruption, bribery, kickbacks, scams, frauds, etc. all have to do with some of the fundamental cultural aspects of our society. As much as we wish to take pride in our education system, but in reality, a majority of Indians are not well educated, most have difficulty in learning. However, all of them wish to be successful monetarily. In a society where the success with money is the only parameter of the real progress, one can find an easy way to make money, at least that's how many would interpret. This issue is not going to change but only likely to increase as our society progress towards narcotics and pleasure-seeking mentality.


We are witnessing a generation of 'privileges'

After 300 years of colonial slavery, we have risen with the new found money. We are in a hurry to match our lifestyles with the western world. We want to live in luxury and comfort. We want to give our best to our children, but we are raising our children with absolutely no resilience; we have been providing all the comfort they need, doing all their homework. Children are made to feel 'privileged' as if they have the right to things they want instead of earning it. Our capacity to work hard from one generation to next has dropped considerably. Party drugs, alcoholism is rising across Indian communities.


One can get away with crime

In our country, people get away with almost everything; law enforcement can be broken anytime by anyone because they feel that if they have money they can get away with it. Now and then a public leader is found misusing their power given to them by the public. Time and again, we have seen people who are caught cheating or has fraud cases, or masterminded the mega scams in our society are getting away bribing the judiciary and governance system. We see police officers taking money from goods carriage on a regular basis. While all of this is happening, we are also passing on a message to our younger generations. The Policemen can complain that their pay is less compared to the working hours of other jobs, but taking a bribe is probably not the ideal solution. Increasingly public is going to disrespect them and will not obey orders. And when they harass and exercise their power on the law-abiding citizen, they end up giving another wrong signal to the society.


News media is for entertainment

Why do banking officials offer such hefty loans? Shouldn’t they be brought into the media as much as the diamond merchant and other people in business? Why all rapists are allowed to hide their faces while the victim is publically insulted, and so-called people's leaders do their character assassination on television. We like sensational news, and media goes after the big names to draw in more TRP ratings no matter how silly it is while ignoring the ones that matter the most.


We can't expect ethical behaviour if we haven't taught them so

Take a short quiz with people working in your organisation, just ask them what do they understand when they hear the word ethics or integrity? I can bet you on this that even people working in best organisations will have a challenge answering it right. How can you expect a society to be ethical if we haven't educated them about it? Our culture has taught us to be obedient and to save guard our self-interest above all.


Consumer is not a king in India

We like to presume that customer is king and yet corporate brand India continues to rob its consumer of their trust. At one end we try to win new customers and spend heavily on advertising, marketing and sales but on the other hand, consumers are taken in for a joy ride with unethical practices; from banking and financial institutions to manufacturing, from services to healthcare industries. Consider this, a small country like Malaysia attracts roughly four times more foreign tourists than India. The answer to this is the same ethical malpractice which is eroding trust in Brand India.


The young & dynamic Indian entrepreneurs

Corporate brand of India cannot get away by accusing the Society at large. Leaders in corporations and SME organisations can step in here to play the most crucial role. SMEs in India contribute 45% to the country's GDP. In recent times, the increasing number of well qualified, experienced and hard-working professionals has taken the plunge to create a fantastic and transparent work and consumer-friendly cultural change. The young and dynamic leaders of corporate India have brought fresh perspectives on how to go about doing more purposeful business, going beyond transactional businesses. However small it may be, it is a good start.


Rebuilding Indian business with cultural transformation

If the SME organisations focus on cultural transformations within their organisation and practise ethical business management, we will soon have a different aura to brand India. The young entrepreneurs' group has dared to build their organisation for a more significant purpose, and they are changing our society. Cultural transformation is the answer to employee productivity and their behaviour. Indian SMEs cannot afford as much talent when compared to MNCs, just because of the economy difference. Therefore, SME organisations must invest in a culture that is conducive to learning. It can also work out the talent shortfall issues for themselves. Culture can save SMEs from all sort of organisational issues, lawsuits, hierarchical roadblocks and even sexual harassment.


I am optimistic about Brand India. It will not only protect its reputation but also grow from the current situation to become one of the better places to do business in the world.


Tridiv Daas is the originator of Creative Factor Group.

Having spent over two decades in advertising & marketing and worked on some of the most prominent brands like Intel, Apple, Essilor, Schneider Electric. He is now empowering small and medium organisations to thrive in the present opportunities. Connect with him at tridiv@creativefactor.in


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