There never was an oxymoron more stark and definitive… Business by it’s very definition is unethical. When you are providing a commodity/service you charge a premium based upon the demand-supply gap. This margin is what is counted as profit. The purpose of a business is to solve a problem in the most profitable way possible for the business owner. Over the centuries we moved from the barter system which was the purest form of equitable pricing to a mad race to the bottom of the bottomless pit that is profiteering. Business has moved from solving problems to creating them instead! Ethics and social responsibility were thrown out the window once the value of profit was understood by businesses. How else do you explain the biggest massacre that was the East India Company and the whole Empire episode. Profit became God and Country and continues to drive humans further away from humanity every single day.
Recently a bunch of recovery agents wanted to recover the amount that a farmer had taken to purchase a tractor. The farmer said he was short of 10K rupees so the agents started driving off with the tractor. The farmer and his pregnant daughter ran after the tractor. The recovery agent put the tractor in reverse and purportedly accidentally ran over the girl, twice. The girl died, so did the foetus in her womb. All for the princely outstanding sum of 1.3L rupees, of which the farmer had offered to clear 1.2L, when the agents had arrived. Refusing that 10K late payment the agents killed two people… just 10K rupees. The business owner sent out a sad tweet expressing his anguish over the incident. The Supreme court of India told the business not to use third party recovery agents in future to recover their loans. Everyone moves on along. Except maybe the husband who was preparing for the life ahead with a new baby and the father who will forever rue the day he decided to take a loan to improve his financial situation. A tractor is a tool that would not take more than 20% of the selling price to manufacture. It is being sold at a price where taking loans is the only way ahead for farmers.
The company that makes these tractors I am sure has a CSR budget that runs into crores of crores. This CSR budget goes towards the upliftment of the unfortunate and the downtrodden. People who have nothing in the world are brought up in life using this CSR budget that companies all over the country are mandated to set aside. People like this farmer are supposed to benefit from the CSR budget. Mahindra sets aside every year 127Cr for CSR activities. To think this comes from the profit that Mahindra makes every year a whopping 3922CR (after taxes and expenses). What is the justification of such large scale profiteering? And what pray is the justification for first creating a problem and then trying to solve it, as if you have so much of that milk of human kindness flowing. Had the tractors been priced at cost plus an equitable margin then that farmer could’ve bought the tractor without having to drown himself in debt. His grand daughter would’ve been playing with him in his fields today.
This is just one business, there are so many ruthlessly merciless examples. Bill Gates, that paragon of philanthropy today, is in my opinion the paragon of dirty profiteering in this world. He owns the largest land bank in the Americas, tomorrow when food crisis hits us who do you think will arrive as the knight in shining armor to save the world? Of course we would be more than happy to overlook the prices of food as long as there is any. How did he get to this point? Simple, by pricing Windows at such a level that he made tonnes and tonnes of profits. A good businessman a lousy human being is what I call such people. The fact that a copy of Windows costs so high has meant that technology has largely been out of reach of poor people making them the ones who live in a condition of want forever, some have resorted to piracy and forever live in the shadow of being thieves. The pricing of Windows, and other products, has also meant handsome profits for Bill Gates. Money he has so nicely given back to do good to a grateful world. So first you make the problem, the hobos and the downtrodden and then you turn around and say “oh I can solve this problem by spending some of my profits”. Even that you do wrong, Seattle where Microsoft is primarily based out of is over run, in patches, by drug addicts and homeless. In fact this is the whole conundrum, Seattle which is home to some of the biggest names in business Amazon, Google, Boeing, Microsoft, Nintendo and more is also home to some of the most notorious neighborhoods where it is advisable not to venture. How much of the CSR budget does it take to fix a city? More important why create the problem first and then pretend to be solving it.
Business today, like politics and everything else including being published writers, is all about optics. You need to appear to be doing good and it usually means first kicking a person in the back to make him fall and then with the cameras running rush to pick him up. First create a false demand and then appear to solve the problem. The whole De Beers diamond story everywhere.
“Ethical Business” is indeed an oxymoron if there ever was one, scratch the surface and greed is what you will observe.