New Delhi: Anurag Goel, the then secretary of the ministry of corporate affairs, is widely seen as the man behind the government’s unprecedented effort to rescue Satyam Computer Service Ltd. A year after Satyam promoter B. Ramalinga Raju confessed to masterminding India’s biggest corporate fraud at what was then India’s fourth largest information technology (IT) firm, Goel, a 1972-batch Uttar Pradesh cadre officer, has broken his silence to explain in an interview how the government rescued Satyam and its 53,000 employees. Edited excerpts:
How did the Satyam fiasco hit you?
Looking back: Former corporate affairs secretary Anurag Goel.
When the day dawned on 7 January last year, Satyam was India’s fourth largest (IT) company... At 11.32am that day, I received a phone call and email from Sebi (market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India) chairman C.B. Bhave, informing me about the communication that Raju had sent to a lot of people. Everybody was in a state of shock that this could happen in Satyam. I was also shocked.... I immediately informed my minister (corporate affairs minister) Prem Chand Gupta and went over to him. Then we got cracking in sync and hands-on.
So by lunch, a plan of action was already being put in place?
Well, we were fast, but not that fast honestly.... By the evening we had some idea of the kind of dimensions (of the unfolding scandal). To be honest with you, it was only at midnight that I got the time to sit down quietly by myself and think it through. A lot of factors (were at play). It was a hit on an IT company—a Rs7,300 crore firm—that had the potential to impact India Inc. in general and Indian IT in particular. Remember this was also the time of the economic meltdown and we were very concerned over that. We were also concerned over the impact on the 53,000 employees... There were mission-critical things being done by the company for many people. In fact, this was the reason that during the day, the minister and I had agreed that apart from investigating, we also needed to save the company.
Was it decided in the first few hours itself that the government will save the company?
Yes. I think a lot of factors like the ones I have mentioned and also the impact on India’s image abroad as an investment destination (came into play)... When I thought it through at midnight, three things became clear to me. First, the then board of Satyam had to be suspended. Second, a new board with persons of the highest credibility and competence (had to be appointed), and third, the new government-appointed board and the government itself would need to work together very closely to make it work.