If You Must, Err for Common Good

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ravishankarDilemmas are part of life and business and decisions have to be made in the given context. If decisions are made keeping common good as the guiding principle many a crisis could have been avoided, K.V. Kamath said while addressing the Corporate Culture and Spirituality Conference organized by Art of Living in Bangalore recently. K.V. Kamath is Chairman of Infosys Limited and nonexecutive Chairman of ICICI Bank. Edited excerpts:

As corporates try to seek spiritual path, the path that you will ultimately come to is a path of common good to all stake holders. Who are these common stake holders? Who is the primary stake holder? The share holders will say we put the money in so we are the primary stake holders, the employees will say that it is our hard work so we are the primary stake holders, society says that we made all this possible so we ought to be the primary stake holder and of course the government too. But the question remains as to who the primary stake holder is? The answer is very simple – all are equal share holders.

It is a community view that we will need to take while trying to figure out how is it that you apply your mind, energy and outcomes for common good. There lies the challenge because while one starts going on that path you will face a whole lot of dilemmas. I term them as dilemmas in shades of grey because the path forward is never clear. If you had a right or wrong choice and you could take that in an objective way, probably there would have been lesser need for us to meet (in a conference like this).

How 2008 financial crisis could have been prevented

For a moment if you look back at the crisis of 2008, I am sure the bankers that were involved in this would have thought what they did was right because, in their minds they met the law. There was justification in their minds that what they did was right. To compound it they would have felt that no regulator actually objected to it. Rating agencies rated instruments and gave us seal of their approval and there after we sold it, so we did no wrong.

But, clearly, when you look at it in retrospect there were a whole lot of shades of grey and you erred in trying to work in a territory which I would call the lightest shade of grey. But you needed to be certain that what you did was in common interest, was in the community interest and if that had been done, you would not have reached where you did in the context of the crisis that we had. Of course, the crisis then gets linked to greed because greed was the motivating force which took them on the lightest grey path.

In the corporate and community context, how do you determine which path you need to go and stick to that path – something which is transparent and for common good.