As India Inc is moved by the hatred it arouses, a search for the soul is needed
From time immemorial, a standard trope for all commercial channels that publish a speech on the budget of the Union has been to ask their guests to ‘assess the budget’. Infallibly, finance minister after finance minister has never scored less than an 8 out of 10 – throw a few punches for the stock market and watch those ratings soar to 9.5.
It is therefore both facetious and ironic that Corporate India now declares itself “afraid” and concerned by the negative reactions that many renowned Indian companies are facing, from various sources. Fear can be understandable. But what they shouldn’t be is surprised.
There are a few truisms that need to be addressed before moving forward. First, India has seen incredibly strong and respectable businesses spring up, grow and prosper. Whether it’s the tech industry (where Infosys recently became the fourth Indian company to hit $ 100 billion in market capitalization) or stellar pharmaceutical companies like Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, to the vibrant and hungry world of startups that gave names like Paytm and Nykaa. It is a sign of the incredible entrepreneurial spirit and indigenous wisdom that many of the Indian business community possess.
The other reality is that business as a community will never, ever be at a crossroads with the political establishment. Corporate interests are housed where the power is. It would therefore be easy to expect scathing criticism or a fiery decline from commercial establishments.
What was frankly surprising and disturbing was the silent response to issues that they knew could genuinely harm them and their businesses.
Panchjanya (considered a spokesperson for RSS) in its September 5 edition, a four-page cover story on Infosys, with the photo of Narayana Murthy, founder of the tech giant, on the cover page. Comments in the article ranged from whether an “anti-national power is trying to harm India’s economic interests through it” to lines like “Due to problems in GST and GST reporting portals income tax developed by Infosys, the confidence of taxpayers in the country the economy has taken a hit. ”This article follows a very public display of discontent on the part of the Ministry of Finance, in particular by summoning the CEO to ‘Infosys, Salil Parikh, in Delhi to explain multiple problems in the GST and Income Tax portals developed by the IT major.
However, the Panchjanya The article against Infosys, the crown jewel of the Indian tech landscape, saw no response from any of the industry bodies – CII or FICCI or even NASSCOM, the apex body of the IT-BPM industry. in India. A few weeks before that, it was the Tata group facing the heat – at CII’s annual meeting, Union Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal tore the company apart with comments such as “Kya aapke jaisi company, ek do aapne shaayad koi videshi company kharid li… Uska importance zyaada ho gaya, desh hith kam ho gaya? (A company like yours, maybe you bought a foreign company or two, now their importance exceeds the national interest?
The video was then removed. But not because of any setback from Indian business leaders or their forums.
Let’s put aside any argument or discussion about the issues of hate speech or violence against targeted communities or groups, and how brutal the silence of Indian companies has been on this subject.
Corporate India questioned when GST was randomly deployed and completely half-ready – even though reports now indicate they are being twisted by the arm to hit the mark Rs 1 lakh crore, which the finance ministry desperately needs to guarantee does it feel good to generate decent income this year? Did they point out the flaws in recent labor law changes that have made hiring and firing much easier for companies?
Or did they rather raise their voices in a crescendo of cheers when the finance minister decided to cut corporate tax rates – ostensibly to boost Corporate India’s investment, but brought nothing more than stronger bottom line for these companies?
Has there been any meaningful debate or discussion around the bloodshed that MSMEs in India have seen with the 1-2-3 punch of demonetization, GST rollout and COVID-induced stress ? Or about the raging unemployment numbers, rising like a time bomb in urban India – and rural India now too?
Donation to election funds: money speaks
But let’s dwell on this argument for a second and explore the money trail instead. Data from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) released in October 2020 shows that the BJP received Rs 698.08 crore from 1,573 corporate donors. A mile away is Congress with Rs 122.5 crore from 122 donors while NCP has Rs 11.34 crore from 17 donors. Voluntary contributions from BJP and Congress, over Rs 20,000, from companies and businesses, were 94% and 82% respectively.
More Numbers: Political contributions made through election trusts hit a record high in 2019-2020 with India Inc names like JSW Group and Indiabulls Group topping the charts. Contributions disclosed by seven election trusts in India reached Rs 363.5 crore in 2019-2020, a 44% increase from the previous year, according to an ADR analysis. This is the highest amount received by election trusts since 2013, when these nonprofits were mandated to disclose donor details. In addition to trusts, companies also make direct contributions or channel them through much more opaque electoral ties.
In terms of trusts, the Prudent Electoral Trust continued to monopolize the bulk of funds, receiving 75% of total contributions. Formerly known as the Satya Electoral Trust, it has collected more than half of the total contributions paid each year since 2013. The Jankalyan Electoral Trust has received a total of Rs 72 crore – three quarters of which came from JSW group companies. Much of Prudent’s contributions were diverted to the BJP, which continued to receive the most donations from these trusts. The BJP raised 276.45 crore rupees in 2019-2020 from election trusts, of which 217 crore rupees came from Prudent. The Indian National Congress received a total of Rs 58 crore while the Aam Aadmi party received Rs 11.2 crore. The BJP is clearly the largest recipient of election trust donations since 2013.
For the PM-CARES fund, data shows that money donated by private companies, industrial bodies and social organizations amounted to more than 5,300 crore rupees.
Clearly, India Inc has displayed its monetary support and validation for the government. Perhaps this explains why there is now palpable concern within the financial community over the covert and overt attacks it faces.
Criticism by business leaders of the Union government has been virtually absent in recent years. While notable exceptions like the very loud and emphatic Rajiv Bajaj have stood out, industry bodies have often stumbled upon themselves to ensure that any seemingly “anti-establishment” commentary is linked to the organization’s own organization. ‘a business leader and not the industry body.
At the height of the second wave of COVID in April, I remember asking a startup founder if Corporate India and individual leaders should support medical relief measures in a bigger way. His response explained it in no uncertain terms – “It’s not my job to run for medical supplies and help find oxygen. My job is to run my business. Quite true. Maybe. Is it also time for the best and the brightest in business in India to think about what the job of defending them is, while they are in hiding.