CEO's Blog

Governance lessons from Delhi’s Odd-Even Experiment

Yesterday, the Delhi Government announced that Phase I of its Odd-Even Scheme has concluded. The experiment has undoubtedly succeeded in one key respect – in obtaining wide-spread participation by the Citizens of Delhi. CM Kejriwal specially thanked Delhi ladies for observing the rule despite being exempted from it. This was also a more participative initiative instead of the fine and shame tactics that the Central Government has adopted with Corporate India. The need in Delhi, is now for citizens to move from a temporary one-time project mode to a system of personal vehicle use reduction and increased use of Public Transport, to make it possible for the Government to continue the movement away from coercion to co-operation, from imposed implementation to self-governance. That it continued for as long as 15 days without interruption, in fact with Social Media support, is a testament to the maturity of Delhi citizenry. Can we now move from doing something as a duty to doing it as a matter of pride? Responsibility can be onerous, pride is responsibility filled with a sense of achievement.

Can Corporate India do this? Adopt self-governance rather than wait for some government babu to crack a whip? Is there really need for some external agency to threaten and actually levy penalties? Cannot the doyens of ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI (and of course their regional counterparts) ask of their members a higher standard of business behaviour?

Making more money is the objective of all business. Can we do this in a more responsible way?
– With less pollution
– With greater customer delight orientation.
– With greater respect for the rule of law
– With less encouragement to corruption of government machinery
– With greater care for our colleagues
– With greater concern for our neighbouring society

Is this mis-placed, even un-realistic idealism? The Delhi experiment, and before that in corporate India, the successes of the Tata Group for long, and of Infosys and similar corporations in the more recent past, give the lie to that un-necessary nay-sayer.

It’s long been rightly said that you get the government you deserve. If we are fond of short-cuts, character & system subversion – anything to obtain our personal (or corporate) goal, we will get a government that treats us with the suspicion that all money-making activity will necessarily be conducted in a manner bordering on crime, or at least with scant regard to ethics. With SEBI’s initiative and drive, India is already ranked 7th in Minority Shareholder Protection, in the list of countries surveyed for the World Bank’s “Doing Business” survey. Instead of bench-marks set and met by regulatory activity, corporate India could – as a matter of pride – set some goals around corporate governance (maybe evolve a Code of Governance?!) and work co-ordinatedly to achieve them.

Again, is this naivete?

Bob Dylan appears relevant here – People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, and then repent.

I don’t believe Indian corporations, poised as they are on the cusp of becoming world-class entities need to succumb to mere convenience as a guide to actions.

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