“What’s your take on Ambani’s asceticism?” Lulu, my parrot asked. Lulu was digging his beak in a raw guava; a clear signal that he was in deep thought.
“Hmm… Sorry, I couldn’t understand” I said.
“Ambani is starting a trend. Anil bhai is not taking his salary. Self denial! Austerity!!”
“So what? They make tonnes of money in dividends. It is tax free. Salary is all but peanuts for him.”
Lulu nodded his head in disagreement. “You must recognise the ‘tyag’ he did by renouncing compensation. He is a Gujju bhai and straight from the land of Mahatma.”
“Oh, come on Lulu. Ha, ha! They have nothing in common except the language they speak.”
“Hmmm….. It would be interesting to see Anil bhai in dhoti walking on the street. Perhaps his Merc will follow him.
“Ha, ha! He will not use cotton dhoti. Reliance will provide him with polyester cloth.”
“Did you read what Willi Way said?”
“He said ‘Borrow a little and if you can’t pay it back, it’s your problem. Borrow a lot and if you can’t pay it back, it’s the lenders problem.’”
“Tell me man, why did he do this? What is he up to?” Lulu fluttered his wings, and looked at me puzzled.
“The official line is that ‘the decision [of not taking pay] is part of company promoters’ commitment to strategic transformation programme.’” I read out the news on my screen.
“Whose strategic transformation? His company’s or his own?”
“That’s open to interpretation. Anil bhai has cleverly drafted the press release. But I guess he means his Company’s transformation.”
“That’s right. A billionaire will never admit that he needs to transform, and change his ways. Even if he is sitting on a debt of 45 thousand crores! The question is if he is not open to change, can he change the organisation he leads?”
“The answer is obvious, Lulu. He can’t. Even a student of HR will tell you that simple truth. But yet that’s a million dollar question.”
“What’s that? You are talking in riddles.”
“It is million dollar question because nobody will have the guts to say that he neither has entrepreneurial skills nor does he differ much from Vijay Mallya.”
“I guess you are right. When you say ‘nobody’ who are you referring to?”
“His Managers! It should be clear to them that they are in a deep mess, and that their Boss had no competence to run big enterprises. Bank managers too would not tell him so. And they would not have even suggested to him tacitly.”
“They do not wish to give up their salary, man. They are wise. They will appreciate his sacrifice, if we can characterise it that way. They will even glorify it in management schools.”
“Do you think bankers will call him a wilful defaulter?”
“No way! In any case, the bankers will not decide it.”
“His brother Mukesh will decide it.”
Lulu gave me a strange look, fluttered his wings and flew away.
Vivek S Patwardhan