The Satyam Diaries: What crumbled down the Satyam Empire? Arrogance or foolhardiness
Bengaluru, April 11: Being one of the major IT giants in India, Satyam owner and CEO Ramalinga Raju had every reason to be proud of. But was it that very pride that took him down is a question that he might be asking himself now. He did away and adopted things that he shouldn't have done.
Interestingly, Ramalinga Raju did not follow what he advised everyone-to adopt a global mindset in the shrinking world. And to top it all, it was his "lust for land" as experts opine that took him down.
The prime mistake was dishonesty. The fact that he inflated his profit and sales visa vie the reality many have won him investors during his hey day, but could stand by him during the global meltdown of 2008.
Secondlt, he did not pay any attention to Satyam, which in fact was giving him the prestige and the profit and was more concerned about his other child project Maytas, which was a real-estate company. In fact when he confessed having inflated the account books, he was sitting on close to 9,000 acres of land in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Nagpur. He wanted more and landed up with the Hyderabad Metro rail project.
Ironically, when he came out in the open, the value of these landholdings diminished and he was left with no money.
The biggest blunder was involving money of politicians, which became a bane for him when he could not return the money. This forced him to confess.
People he got rid off
His MBA batchmate from Ohio, D V S Raju came to his aid when he launched the Satyam Computers in April 1987. An electronics engineer, his friend took the company to a different height altogether. Under him, Satyam steered toward its first giant step in 1992 when it pioneered the offshore business of writing software solutions from India. Its first client was the tractor giant John Deere, which was lured by the low costs.
That got on Raju and after getting a hang of the business, Raju got rid of DVS.
His second life-saving mascot was his co-brother-in-law Srini Raju who helped Ramalinga and his brother in the technical department. Srini was an engineer and had worked for Texas Instruments. He turned Satyam into a cutting-edge internet service provider and established itself into the Y2K business.
Then came Satyam Infoway that listed on NASDAQ and rocked it on the first day itself. Realising that there was quick money in the US he took over from Srini and maneuvered him out of Satyam.
Nailing the coffin
Raju sub-consciously competed with N R Narayanamurthy and Azim Premji. And in oreder to give them a trump, he started changing his account books to show investors that he is moving faster than them.
The Economic Times explains,"This led to increasing prices of Satyam scrips. Raju cashed in, offloading the promoter's shares or by using them as collaterals to borrow from banks. Starting with 80% promoter's shares, Raju ended with zero shareholding by the time he gave in. The money raised was used to buy land across the country."
Thus the end of an Empire and a potential do-gooder (P.S the EMRI number 108 for ambulance call) in the making.