On the occasion of the 16th JRD Tata Oration on Ethics in Business, XLRI hosted Mr Subroto Bagchi, COO, Mindtree Consulting, along with Mr. Muthuraman, MD, Tata Steel. Mr. Bagchi spoke about integrity and defined it in extremely simple terms as ‘the opposite of dishonesty’. He felt that integrity is a very abstract concept and has an indirect correlation with the desire to succeed in life at all costs. Therefore, it is the intelligent urban mind which crosses the line of integrity rather than the primitive, rural and less affluent person who lives in a state of innocence.
In India, he believes, traditionally, it is the middle class which has been the protector of the genetic equivalent of the idea called integrity and it is they who have tried to pass this idea from one generation to another because they had to ‘uphold the values’. However, now it is the same middle class which lives in a scarcity mindset. From school seats to hospital beds to jobs in government offices, there is a scarcity which forces the person to devise ways to succeed at all costs.
Being intelligent, he convinces himself that what he is doing is right and thus, he soon becomes an expert at it. It slowly becomes a game for him, he gets addicted and it creates a high for him each time he gets the satisfaction of winning by ‘buying out’ someone.
Mr Bagchi’s speech was filled with interesting examples from his personal interactions with people. He failed to understand as to why well educated people, gave in to the disease of bribery and dishonesty and at the same time did not find anything wrong with it. He belonged to a family, wherein integrity was of foremost importance. The values and ideals imbibed in him by his father and the extreme honesty witnessed by him in his childhood have remained with him till date, as a result of which he has dismissed very capable and highly qualified employees from his company on the grounds of integrity.
According to the data collected by Transparency International, petty acts of bribery in India amounts to Rs. 21,068 crores which, if saved, consecutively for three years, can fund the Golden Quadrilateral Project which is of prime importance to India.
In Mindtree Consulting, they give a copy of the book ‘All about Integrity’ to new recruits in order to imbibe in them the culture of the organization and to ensure that integrity becomes a part of their functioning.
Mr Bagchi left us with some very insightful thoughts. He told us not to lose our morality, even if life mistreats us and we feel victimized. He also reminded us not to expect a rainbow at the end of the journey, just because we have led a life of values. There might be no cheering crowds, no festooned high ground and no decorations. However, in the end, all that matters is how we look at ourselves in our own eyes.