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Everyone’s talking downturn

entertainment Updated: Feb 28, 2009 15:41 IST
Jaydeep Ghosh

Smoking a Rs 1,500 stick of Habanos and swigging an aged single malt, this capitalist friend of mine talked incessantly about the economic downturn and leveled his accusation at our kind — the scribes — for fuelling people’s insecurity.

“Every morning people open the newspapers and read about employment freeze, people being sacked and the slowdown, and this creates a fear psychosis,” he said.

I couldn’t help but agree, but that didn’t deter me from defending our kind. “Our job is to provide correct information. If there is a freeze on employment and people are being layed off, how can the media ignore it?” I argued. “The situation in India isn’t that bad,” he said. “A lot of corporates are using the present scenario to cut the excess fat that they have accumulated over the years or using the whole ‘downturn’ brouhaha to cut cost and maximise profits.” This is one point on which I couldn’t help but agree with him.

When the Indian economy was booming, a lot of entrepreneurs launched ventures that they were incompetent in. Now that there’s a credit squeeze, these entrepreneurs are dumping the projects and the victims are hundreds of those professionals who worked for them. In the Dot Com era I saw dozens of entrepreneurs disappearing when the bubble burst, leaving thousands of employees high and dry. Just when India was Shining, the capitalists broadened their horizons by foraying into businesses they didn’t know much about. Now the ‘downturn’ has come as a God-sent gift to them to wash their hands off the blunder.

The downturn hasn’t really affected the elite class. They’re still buying their fancy cars. You have read how there’s more demand for the Rolls-Royce Phantom than there is supply. Even the most expensive business jet, The Bombardier, has never had it so good in India before. If there’s anything that’s stopping the richie-rich of Delhi from flaunting their money, it’s the scare of the Taxman or a robbery.

The brunt, as usual, is faced by the working class. This makes me think, shouldn’t there be a system to check whether a business is really so badly hit by a downturn that it needs closure? Is sacking a dozen employees more effective than limiting the expense accounts of the top brass? Flying economy class than business class would definitely save enough moolah for the company to spare the jobs of those dozen employees.

Ethical corporate governance is something that has been grossly ignored by our Capitalist class. I risk sounding like a communist but then isn’t it the truth? We have had expensive seminars on ethical corporate governance, but all of it is nothing but hollow talk. I tell my Capitalist friend, the MD of a company, that it would be great if the expense he incurred on smoking that long Habanos and the Rs 2,000-a-peg single malt is charged to his personal account than the company account. Well, my point was driven home and instead of paying through his corporate card, he paid in cash. Now, it’s an entirely different saga of the parallel ‘black-money’ economy that runs in this country.