It has been over a decade now since the Satyam Computer's much-talked-about crisis. But 7 January would always be an indelible day for its erstwhile employees.
On 7 January 2009, the founder of Satyam confessed the financial irregularities and informed the then-Board in writing, “It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, and offered himself to the law 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.
Thinking About the Family
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 and it made us squirm. We did not believe that something of this kind could happen. I saw tears in the corners of my colleagues’ eyes. Some began to sniff, and I got goosebumps, 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 relatives, pseudo-well-wishers, and even the pensively looking team members? Contemplating all this, I went past the TV room meekly 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 answered evasively, “There is nothing to worry about and everything will be alright.”
The Swarm of Mediapersons Outside Our Office
My new house was also being constructed at my native place at the time. I was able to build that house with the help of a home loan and years of personal savings. Later, I was told that some of my neighbours also sniggered and said that only a person who works in a ‘fraud company’ could afford to make such a house.
I vividly remember that the employees who lived off-campus went back to their homes on that day, weary and haggard, quite late at night. The reason was the truculent mediapersons waiting outside the gate. They were eager to swoop on us for their ‘exclusive’ video bites. Their questions were like rubbing salt into the wound. The threat of losing a good job was hanging over our head like the Sword of Damocles.
We were also saddened by the statements of a few veteran company owners who declared that they would not touch employees of a tainted company. Hence, there was no immediate hope either about updating or creating a resume to apply for a new job.
But kudos to our far-sighted then-senior management, who took the reins in its hands and soon announced a press conference to pierce the pall. It was convened by the then-HR head and other senior Vice-Presidents. That press conference guided us all and finished the shilly-shallying. Our senior leaders assured all key stakeholders that we would soon come out of the difficult time. They made a point while addressing the rattled employees that our biggest duty was to retain the clients. They emphasised 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 agonised associates. We confidently came back to our workstations with our heart and soul.
Back On Our Feet
It would be remiss of me not to mention the praiseworthy determination and commitment of our then-government, especially the 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 AS Murthy to become the new CEO of Satyam. In April 2009, via a formal public auction, Satyam was purchased by the leading IT company Tech Mahindra and eventually, we became a part of the larger M&M family.
From that day onwards, I started appreciating the much-said adage – One day you will look back and laugh at the problems you had today.
(The author is a Head-Operations at an engineering & IT services company in Hyderabad and a columnist. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)