2016: Call to action

2016: Call to action

It’s the start of a new year. CFO India wishes the very best to its readers and hopes that 2016 is kind to everyone. Even as I write this column, though, January is over. The sense of time ticking away is becoming stronger with every passing day. For most of us, this applies to external expectations, and professional as well as personal goals.

Let’s stay with the non-personal for now.

What can we expect from the world, external to us, i.e. the government, the central bank, international organisations like the EU, World Bank and the United Nations? What can we expect or demand from our companies? But more importantly, what can we do to ensure that at least some of our expectations are met? There are three suggestions I would like to make for this year.

Commit to engagement. For way too long, as a senior corporate community we have shied away from ‘New Delhi’, i.e. the policy-maker. While quick to criticise the long list of what’s wrong or missing, there is a great deal of apathy in pushing for change. Participation in industry bodies and professional forums and taking the trouble of articulating your wishes would be a great start. The impact one could make on the international environment, admittedly, is limited. But in the domestic environment, there is a huge opportunity.

Typically, interest groups and industry associations have a laundry list of demands – and that’s where the problem lies. The government, the RBI, SEBI, etc. find it easy to ignore ‘unreasonableness’. A litany of demands – big and small – lend themselves to being viewed as unreasonable. A sharp and focused request – one at a time – would help. In the current environment, repeated and strong demands for tax reforms, at every opportunity, would make the point more than before.

The CFO Board, set up by CFO India and KPMG, has taken on the mantle of popularising institutional arbitration amongst corporates as a start. This is with the specific intent of minimising the damage caused by prolonged and unpredictable litigation. Senior finance leaders like Mr Mahalingam who bring experience and wisdom to this process have led the effort. It is a small step in the right direction. The initiative would benefit immensely from the support and active engagement of our readers.

Speak up. The Budget is round the corner. Individuals will make pressing demands to the Finance Ministry. However, even if none are met, most from the Indian industry will heap praise on the Finance Ministry. Such double-speak creates room for inertia on the part of policy makers. There is a similar situation within the corporate environment. There is lip service to ‘zero tolerance’, but few speak up, if at all, against poor governance, small frauds and other behaviour that demands ‘zero tolerance’. In the new year, perhaps we could ‘speak up’ a wee bit more.

Be more equal. There are three big shifts shaping the world – an ageing population, women and climate change. For this year, I want to draw your attention to women. There are a host of opportunities for you to create a more equal world – beginning with your team and your company. How do you score on diversity – and even as you begin to have a greater representation of women in your teams, is there genuine fairness and empathy to a half of the population that doesn’t find it easy to enter or stay on in the workforce? Are you consciously or unconsciously biased?

The concerns around bottomlines and performance are perennial in business. Alongside, if we could commit ourselves to even one of the above, the overall impact on the business environment would be substantial. We would leave the world a wee bit better than we found it.

That’s my agenda for 2016, but, what do you think?

Anuradha Das Mathur, Editor, CFO India