My Proficorn Way (Part 13)

Never Compromise Integrity

When I was running IndiaWorld in the late 1990s, there was an occasion in the early stages when I was asked for a kickback in return for giving me business. It was a lucrative deal. And all I had to do was to agree to give some money back in cash once I got the order. The offer came at a time when we were struggling for growth. It all seemed so easy to say Yes, generate some cash using fake invoices, and pay the individual. No one else would ever know. IndiaWorld would benefit and I would have more revenues to build the business faster.

The advice I got from a few close family members and friends was mixed. Those in favour had arguments like “if you don’t do it, someone else will – only you will be the loser”, “take the money and do something good with it” and “it’s not really a big deal – every business does it in India because that is the norm.” Those against said “you must build a business the right way”, “you cannot compromise your ethics for success” and “you only compromise integrity once – after that, you are one of them.”

In a highly competitive market, the additional revenues could help us invest in new initiatives. Getting that brand as a customer would have given IndiaWorld strong validation and helped me get more business from others. It was a moment of truth for me.

I said No, and walked away. My parents had always emphasised honesty – whatever be the case. That was a core value. I could not let it go. My wife gave me the courage to make the right decision at a time when I was weakening. I also knew there is never “just this one time.” I realised that if I did it once, I would do it again. That was not what I wanted to become. I wanted to succeed on the merits of what we offered and what we were building – even though it would take longer.

A proficorn is built when the foundation is right. One of the core values that can never be compromised whatever be the circumstance is integrity. Because you compromise integrity only once. After that, you are one of them.

Tomorrow: My Proficorn Way (Part 14)