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Fraud-hit Satyam eyes World Cup rehabilitation

Nearly 18 months ago, Satyam was rocked by a false-accounting scandal that threatened its very existence. But bosses believe the firm's image has been restored -- thanks to the World Cup.

business Updated: Jul 11, 2010 14:54 IST

Nearly 18 months ago, Satyam was rocked by a false-accounting scandal that threatened its very existence. But bosses believe the firm's image has been restored -- thanks to the World Cup.

The software outsourcing giant, rebranded as Mahindra Satyam, has been the main IT services provider for the tournament in South Africa, ensuring the logistics were in place for the mega-event to pass off without a hitch.

The firm's logo has been on pitch-side advertising hoardings at every match, while around 150 staff have been working behind the scenes to ensure fans, organisers, volunteers and the media are in the right place at the right time.

"Our main goal was to show to the world that despite our problems we have been able to successfully deliver cutting-edge solutions at the highest, and most visible, level," said the firm's head of sports business, Dilbagh Gill.

"We wanted to demonstrate to our customers, and give them confidence, that Mahindra Satyam, in spite of its resizing and its issues, is still a very strong technology player," he said in emailed comments from South Africa.

"We think this is coming across very well now in terms of us being able to deliver the solutions that continue to enable this World Cup to run successfully."

Gill's optimism is a far cry from early January 2009, when the founder and former chairman of Satyam Computer Services Ltd, B. Ramalinga Raju, admitted overstating profits and inflating the balance sheet by billions of dollars.

The scandal at the Hyderabad-based firm -- dubbed at the time "India's Enron" after the US energy firm that collapsed in 2001 in the wake of false-accounting revelations -- was the country's largest-ever corporate fraud.

It led to a rash of lawsuits at home and abroad. Raju and several former senior executives are currently awaiting trial.

Tech Mahindra, a unit of Indian vehicle and farm equipment manufacturer Mahindra and Mahindra, bought the company, allaying fears about its survival and whether it could fulfil the World Cup contract it signed in 2007.

The firm has been responsible for putting in place IT systems to accredit 250,000 people for 64 games in 10 venues, help over 130,000 tournament volunteers and allow more than three million match tickets to be sold.

It has also managed more than one billion dollars' worth of assets, from flat-screen televisions to laptops and mobile phones, and provided support for the computer systems of football's world governing body, FIFA.

Gill admitted the job had been a challenge but the competition has shown "that with the new management, and as a smaller organisation, we are still a very strong option for customers looking for technology".

He added: "For the people who have continued to work with us, it is a great time for them to see that the company that they have stood by is still at the world's peak in terms of delivering solutions."

Mahindra Satyam's contract extends to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Gill said they are currently in "advanced discussions" with organisers of several major sporting events to provide IT services.

IT sector analysts in India agreed the World Cup has given a boost to Satyam's tarnished brand.

"After whatever has happened in the past it's very essential for the company to build and bring credibility to their brand," said Gaurav Dua, head of research at Mumbai-based brokerage Sharekhan.

"I think all this is a step towards that objective."

First Published: Jul 11, 2010 14:47 IST