Satyam Crisis: The Day We Rode a Tiger!

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On 7th January 2009, the founder of Satyam confessed the financial irregularities and informed the then board by writing, ‘It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten’ and offered himself to the laws of the land. Those days I used to work in Satyam Computer Services as a project manager and my team was working round the clock on a seminal healthcare project.

On that day, when I was going from the cafeteria towards the office after finishing my lunch, I saw a posse of other colleagues rushing to the TV room speaking out loudly, ‘come fast, we are in the news,’ I also ran to the common hall. There, the news of Satyam was being aired on every TV news channel and it created a commotion in the entire room. It was a big shock to all of us that made us squirm. We did not believe that something of this kind could happen. I saw rheum in the corners of my colleagues’ eyes. Some began to sniff and the skin on my limbs came up in goose flesh too.

The situation was uncertain. I began to feel forlorn and started thinking about my family members, who were located thousands of kilometres away from Hyderabad. I wondered what my father’s reaction would be after hearing this inexplicable news. How would I answer the questions of my fathead relatives, pseudo well-wishers and even the pensively looking team members? Meditating all these, I went past meekly the TV room with a wry smile straight towards my office building.

To be sure, everything that was feared happened on that day. Rumours were rife – I started getting calls from my friends, relatives and eventually from my father as well. As soon as I wished him, he said gravely, “There is news airing about your company on TV, is everything okay there?” I evasively answered, “There is nothing to worry about and everything will be alright.”

My new house was also being constructed in my native place during that period. I was able to build that house with the help of a home loan and many years of my personal savings. Later I was told that some of my neighbours also sniggered on this and talked among themselves that only a person who works in a ‘fraud company’ could afford to make such a house.

I vividly remember, the employees who lived off- campus went back their homes on that day weary and haggard quite late at night. The reason was the truculent media persons waiting outside the gate. They were eager to swoop on us for their ‘exclusive’ video bites. Their incongruous questions were like rubbing salts into the wound.  Threat of losing a good job was hanging on our heads like the Sword of Damocles. We were also saddened by the inappropriate statements of a few veteran companies’ owners who declared that they would not touch employees of a tainted company. Hence, there was no immediate enthusiasm either about updating or creating a bio-data to apply for a new job.

But kudos to our far-sighted then senior management, who took the reins in its hands immediately and soon announced to hold a press conference to pierce the pall. It was convened by then HR head and other senior Vice Precedents. That press conference guided us all and finished the shilly-shallying. Our senior leaders assured all key stake holders effusively that soon we would come out of the difficult time. They made a point while addressing to the rattled employees that our biggest duty was to retain the clients. They emphasized doubly, “There should be no compromise on our deliverables and quality of work because of the current crisis.” That communication deflated the gloom around us instantly and gave a direction to the agonized associates. We confidently came back to our work stations with our heart and soul again.

It would be very remiss of me not to mention the praiseworthy determination and commitment of our then government especially MCA. Within a few days of Mr. Raju’s disclosure, the government nominated noted banker Deepak Parekh, former NASSCOM Chief Kiran Karnik, and former SEBI member C Achuthan to Satyam’s board and designated veteran A. S. Murthy to become the new CEO of Satyam. In April 2009, via a formal public auction Satyam was purchased by leading IT Company Tech Mahindra and eventually we became part of a larger M&M family.

From that day onwards I started appreciating much said adage, all the more – One day you will look back and laugh at the problems you had today. This is genuinely true!

Riyaz Khan

Written by Riyaz Khan

The author is Director at an engineering and IT services company in Hyderabad and a columnist.

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