His life was the stuff that dreams are made of, especially the quitessential all American one. Orphaned as a teenager, ranked 15th in the toughest entrance test in the world, Management degree on a scholarship from Harvard, first Indian to be on the top job of an American company, that too one of the top most consultancy firms in the world, on the Board of many of the high ranked organisations of the world – you name it, he has had everything. All that he touched turned into gold. He was the adviser to the best of the business minds in the world. And then, one day, everything comes tumbling down. Yes, I am talking about the much talked about in recent times, Rajat Gupta.
Much has been written and discussed about what went wrong and right, what could have been or not. Many believe he is the victim of a conspiracy, that his good friend Raja Rajaratnam did him in. And the verdict itself is based on circumstantial evidence. The story once again brings forth the eternal topic of ethics in bsuiness. The question is are they mutually exclusive? Is it that the two cannot co-exist?
Here was a man who could do no wrong. His business acumen was phenomenal, his philanthropic activities well- known. There has not been even a tinge of controversy about him all through his career. Even in this case, no one has been able to prove or even hint that he has made any money out of it. Then why did he do it, if he did it? The first chink in his armour may be the man who was considered his friend – Raja Rajaratnam. Rajaratnam has been accused of conspiring with many others in insider trading cases. Though not proven, he has been accused of widely funding LTTE activities in Sri Lanka. And this was the man Rajat Gupta considered a close friend. A classic case of a knowing a man by his friends.
What has did him are the string of calls made to his friend seconds after board meetings of Goldman Sacha and P&G. You cannot blame the jury for putting two and two together and coming up with a big four. What Rajat Gupta gained out of this is something that is debatable. But there is no question about the gains that his friend made.
Some may ask what about all the good that he has done over the years. Isn’t all that worth something? Wouldn’t this have been a weak moment of his? That is where many of the brilliant minds falter. When you are on a high, you tend to think nothing can go wrong. One small diversion that goes unnoticed may lead to a slightly larger one, then an ever bigger one. On the way, they start turning blind to the surroundings. Their sight starts to focus on what is near rather than what is far and around. That is when their steps start to falter. One weak moment leads to even weaker hours. Or one weak moment becomes the most defining moment of their lives.
Our leaders would do well to pay heed to Spiderman. He said it the best,
“With great power comes great responsibility“