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Not my cup of tea

“Can I meet Mr. Siddharth?” I asked the receptionist as I thrust my visiting card. “Editorial Section?” she enquired as I replied in the affirmative. After crosschecking with my friend Siddharth she asked to wait in the visitors room II. After a 30-minute wait Siddharth emerged with a couple of his juniors. I was always proud of him. He was my neighbour’s son and I knew him for more than 2 decades. A topper in IIT, he joined the IIM at Ahmedabad. Since then he has been working for this group having assorted business interest including the print and the electronic media. Despite his young age and high qualifications, he was never brash. On the contrary he was always calm and composed.

But not today. His voice was raised as he was passing on some instructions to his juniors and the worry lines in his forehead clearly visible. “Namaskaram uncle Narada” he said as entered the room. “Just was passing by your office, wanted to meet you at your office,” I explained. I am sure he knew the purpose of my visit and my pointed enquiries were a façade for a cup of tea and a few minutes rest in his air-conditioned office from the harsh sun outside. “Just a minute,” he said as he gave a fresh dose of instructions to his juniors and waved them away. “What’s the news,” he turned his attention towards me. “Nothing, but you seem to be busy, shall I come another day,” I asked him. “Not really. But this Press Note 18 is killing me and my team. We are in a supreme fix. Hence busy,” he explained. “What is that?” I asked him rather innocently. “Simply put uncle, in layman’s terms it’s a notification, which enjoins a foreign collaborator to start a competing business in India without the NOC from the Indian partner,” he replied as he ordered for two cups of tea over the intercom. “So?” I enquired not getting the import of what he said. “The government is now seeking to do away with this requirement. I need to write an editorial for my paper,” he explained and added, “I am not sure the position to take.”

“What are you options?” I asked him. “See I am opposed to this requirement getting diluted in principle. Indian entrepreneurs need some more exposure to global business before we do away with this press note totally. Also it meets the test of equity too. We cannot throw the baby with the bathwater. But my dilemma is that my Chief editor wants me to take a contrary position,” he said as he explained the economic rational behind the introduction of the press note and his quandary. “I am sure that this is impeding the flow of FDI into the country, and I am sure that such a regulation is an anachronism in the globalized era. Surely I presume China is not having any such stipulation. I think for all the above reasons your Chief is absolutely right,” I added thoughtfully, assuming my self-clarification would help my young friend to find the resting point in the debate. “More or less you are right,” he said as the tea boy entered with two cups of tea. “Then what is your problem, write according to what your Boss wants,” I rationalised and handed over a clincher to him, “remember the maxim – the Boss is always right.” I was after all trying to pass on my experience to him.

“See the problem is much bigger than what you think. We are a very diversified group and many of our group companies are big beneficiaries of this press note. And that makes my job difficult. And if I take a position against the withdrawal of the press note I shall be seen as obscurantist and primordial by my peers, if I do otherwise, I shall be seen as a hypocrite. That explains the silence of big business groups on this issue,” he said. “I will call on you later,” I said as I felt a lump in my throat, as I made a hasty exit without bothering to have my cup of tea, jettisoning the very purpose of my visit.

Last modified on Sunday, 07 July 2013 07:36