Satyam’s board takes baby steps

Satyam Computer Services’ new board held its first press conference, where it faced a barrage of questions. Towards the end, Deepak Parekh, eminent banker and a special director on Satyam Computer Services’ board lost his cool. After spending some few hours in the company today, the enormity of the task seemed to have sunk in.

The questions they were being asked, to which they had no answers, seemed to be the questions they were asking to the company, to which they had got no answers. Mr Parekh finally asked the media to leave them alone for a few weeks, and not give them dozens of calls every day. He said they will come back with some concrete information. He may be in for a disappointment.

The government itself will put pressure on them to ascertain progress, as it wants to show the world that something is being done to revive Satyam. These directors may also need to spend a lot of time physically in Hyderabad, at least till they find a CEO and ease him into the new role. Strangely, no chairman has been announced. The government had said that the three members will decide on a chairman.

The board’s top priority, it said, was to ensure the business progresses smoothly, and confidence is restored among customers, shareholders and employees. The first steps have been initiated. A new auditing firm will come in to audit the accounts and restate the financials and finalise the third quarter results. The board had some kind words for Satyam employees, their dedication and capabilities. That will boost their morale somewhat.

Working capital issues will be first priority. The board announced that they will first appoint a CEO and CFO, to take care of daily operations. So Ram Mynampati will play a limited role in future. Getting a CFO should not be a difficult task. A clean-up job always looks good on a CFO’s resume whose task is made easy by the fact that even the most draconian of decisions will be accepted without a murmur at such times.

But getting a CEO will be tricky, which the board admitted as much, saying they will have to convince people to take on this role. The CEO has to be someone who can command respect within the Satyam employee family, among customers and shareholders. He or she must also not be afraid of heading a company that might be sold or merged with some other company, eventually leaving the CEO without a job. While the compensation package may make it worth the risk, the bigger risk is of being seen as a failure. The best bet would be someone who has made it big, is on the verge of retirement and has nothing to lose but everything to gain from this job.

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