“Boss, this is India. If we keep looking at ethics, then we can only invest in Narayana Murthy’s company.” This was the stock answer we got whenever we objected to investing in unethical companies during my stint at a private equity fund.
In fact, India’s investment community cares very little about ethics or corruption (exceptions notwithstanding).
I am not taking a high moral ground - we may all be guilty in some ways. Yet, it is worth asking some questions: Should investors accept corruption as a reality, or do they have a responsibility to resist? Should we differentiate between paying money to an extortionary government official vs. paying to get an undue favor or sidestep the rule of law?
Is it ok to support practices that are legal, yet unethical? Do affluent citizens have a higher degree of responsibility than a poor individual just trying to survive?
These questions don’t have easy answers but they need to be asked. We need to stop justifying corruption by saying ‘this is India’.
Our companies and investment funds are run by brilliant minds, many from our IIMs, IITs, and other top institutions. If they don’t use their intellect and privileged positions to address these questions, then who will?