I have answered this question millions of times in my training and teaching sessions. And there are no clear answers. However students who ask this question need to understand that being ethical may be an end in itself. If something is an end in itself, how does it matter whether it should be done or not?

For me, principles are not negotiable. It does not change whether the index is at 21000 or 8000. You just have to live by them. If you went to a friend’s house and found Rs 50k lying unattended would you pick it up? That is the question you need to answer. You will not do certain things – immaterial of whether somebody is watching or not. However at 12am if you can take a ‘short cut’ – which is a ‘no entry’ there is a good chance that you will take it. Hoping there is no policeman to see what you are doing. However, if you are speeding into that ‘no entry’ road…and there is a truck coming in from the other direction…..need I say more?

There was an interesting research in US regarding being ethical. There was no clear conclusion that ‘being unethical’ made more money.

So my conclusions are as follows:

If you are unethical in your dealings, one day you will be caught. If you are caught when youa re 22 years of age, you are lucky – you can re-think your career. If you are caught at 85 years you are lucky – your career is anyway over. However if you are caught at age 45 you are neither here nor there! Ketan Parikh, Harshad Mehta, Ramalinga Raju, R Subramaniam (Subhiksha) all of them are sufferring because they were caught at what they thought was the peak of their career. There are enough and more ‘Subhiksha’ stories on the net – right from his alumni members, his ex-employees, his current employees, vendors, customers, etc. have written about him!

Take the case of Ketan Parekh. He came from a family of good repute. His grandfather and father used to be consulted for settling disputes amongst brokers in their time. He was rich. Seriously rich. However his machinations made sure his father went to jail – at least for a day. I do not wish to name a few of his family members who are now not allowed to come into India – one of them was a kid when I was in school. His father in law had to plead with the court to go abroad for treatment for KP’s kids illness. If there is a riches to sadness story, here it is. KP was from a rich family, was qualified as a CA, could have earned enough without any of his fantasy plans. Many people may not know, but he has paid a very high price for all that he has done – and socially he is ruined. God bless him.

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  1. Subhikshaemployees

    What has happenned in Subhiksha is the worst form of economic terrorism. R. Subramaniam has destroyed all of us in a complete manner without giving us any chance to get to stability. He kept giving false promises one after the other but to no avail. He should face stiff punishment for all that he has done. We would urge the President of India to take us this matter very seriously and bring RS to justice.

  2. Being unethical at 85 is horrendous. When you are at the end of your life’s journey and you do something funny, you don’t have time to repair your image and reestablish your name. All the good deeds whatever you have done throughout your life will disappear in no time and you will die with blemishes and your epitaph would be written accordingly. Isn’t it too bad?

    Integrity is essential in any stage of one’s life and in whatever one does, whether it is one’s career or anything.

  3. People who are unethical at 22 are unethical at 23…and it goes on at 85. Suddenly nobody becomes ‘unethical’ or ‘ethical’ they are what they are. We are only talking of getting caught at 85. An unethical person does not suddenly say ‘from today I will be ethical because i have become old’…

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