Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Don't kill your child's instinct to succeet

By giving our children everything they desire without any effort, we could be killing their instinct to succeed tomorrow.
Gautam Chikermane
THE FIVE children–two girls and three boys, age three to six–frolicked in the small, plastic pool. It was a delight to see them fight the early-summer heat by splashing water on one another, turning into mermaids, crocodiles and fish, as the colours of Holi turned the pool from yellow to red to green. It was also an experience that offered insights into the process of wealth creation. Four of the children were from well-off, even wealthy, homes. The fifth one–let’s call him Hari–was the son of a government clerk. What his family spent in a year would be about one to two months’ expenses of the others’. Hari did not have expensive toys like the other children did; he had never seen a home pool. The other children were completely unaware of the economic divide between him and them, and although Hari was conscious of the divide, the child in him rejected these artificial layers of separation that build walls between adults.
The quintet moved on, from the pool to the cycles to the lunch table to the mom-and-pop games. In all the activities, there was only one leader: Hari. He only had to see a toy being used once and he’d master it. He was the organiser of all kinds of games: making a ‘house’ with dining chairs for walls and bedsheets for a roof, teaching them to pedal more efficiently, hold their breaths underwater and blow bubbles, and generally creating magic out of the ordinary. Hari, I felt, characterised the spirit of enterprise: he had nothing, not even a knowledge of how the remote-controlled jeeps and the other gadgets worked. But he created conditions under which the other children became his followers, chanting "Hari bhaiya, Hari bhaiya", doing what he told them to and having a great time. If he keeps at it, he could end up very wealthy.
Column in Outlook Money

Monday, April 15, 2002

'We are watchdogs, not bloodhounds': ICAI president

Pointing out fraud is for the regulators. Our job is to give them the information. What they do with it is their business.
Gautam Chikermane
When Ashok Chandak took charge as president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on 5 February 2002, his role, it seemed, was cut out. A month into being in office (on March 8), against the backdrop of the dubious role of Andersen, the Enron auditors, in the US energy giant’s debacle, he passed his first resolution, which stated that an accounting firm cannot charge a company higher fees for consulting than for auditing its accounts. As head of the first accountants body to do so in the world, Chandak has caught the post-Enron-and-the-resultant-clean-up bus running. In an interview with Gautam Chikermane, Chandak touches upon the various aspects of regulating accountants. Scalded by criticism of the ICAI’s regulatory role (See 'Make accountants accountable'), Chandak began the interview on the front foot. Excerpts:
Do you think the accounting profession is accountable?
In the past 50 years, we have had the best self-regulatory mechanism–1,650 cases have been sent to the high court, an equal number would have been punished by the institute. The total number of cases considered: more than 10,000. Now, you tell me how many have been found guilty in other self-regulated organisations. I would say that we have the best record of regulation in the country. Besides, you should not look at statistics alone. You should consider the quality of regulation.
Why then are aspersions being cast on the profession today? Why is it felt that accountants are not accountable?
You say that auditors don’t do their jobs. Fine. Can you give me just 10 audit reports where the various regulators who get these reports (Registrar of Companies, Income Tax authorities, banks, RBI, Sebi or the stock exchanges) have taken action on the basis of the auditor’s qualifications? You won’t be able to do that because nobody takes these reports seriously. We are not regulators–and we don’t want to be regulators.
Interview in Outlook Money