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“This is the most humble day of my career,” said Rupert Murdoch, the head of the media conglomerate, News Corp., as he stood before the British Parliament facing an explanation for the phone hacking scandal by his newspaper, News of The World. Perhaps one of the biggest news scandals of this decade, with reports of deliberate tapping of voice mails and phone conversations of the victims of crime and many celebrities, NOTW issued its last edition on 10th July 2011.

So, what did this scandal do to the common man? Why did it lead to such an uproar of events? Why were the citizens and readers outraged? The answer to all those questions lies in the fact that people’s trust was lost when the scam hit the headlines. A faith worth 168-years-old, built through a lot of hard work became ashes as the entire scandal unfolded. From the Chairman to the Chief-Editor, everyone was involved in this crime and that is what left a deeper scar. At a time, when being fair to one’s customers is the rule of thumb in the business world, NOTW washed away every memory of confidence that it once had with it’s readers.

In the light of all these events, the question comes down to this — Today, in a world where money plays the upper hand, does the value of trust holds any significance? Is earning fortunes the only goal of any corporate enterprise? Do the business giants carry no moral obligation or responsibility towards their customers? Sadly, we have too many examples that make all the above questions redundant, with NOTW being the icing on the cake. The massive corporate ventures today have got involved in only making money and the ordinary citizen becomes its minting machine. Business ethics might be making way into every company’s Memorandum of Association, but surely does not reach its balance sheets. In India itself, where on one hand we have the fine example of the Tata Group of Industries, carrying their banner of trust in every venture (‘Tata ka bharosa’), on the other hand we also have the example of the Satyam Accounting Scandal of 2009. In the midst of all this, the value of keeping people’s trust has got lost somewhere.

Ironically, the newest IIM at Trichy, mentored by IIM-Bangalore, will introduce a full credit mandatory course in ethics, corporate social responsibility and values from this year onwards. What is the point of all these lessons when in actual reality they are never followed? Building a good and strong relationship with one’s customers is every enterprise’s biggest achievement, but only with truth and fairness does that business become really successful. Monetary success can be achieved at any time, but nourishing a bond through trust lasts forever and acts like an elixir for the business. It is no wonder today then, that Tata Industries is counted as one of the finest enterprises and has gained global recognition.

Every businessman needs to realise the crucial importance of keeping one’s customer’s faith intact. Because this bond once broken can never be repaired again and NOTW just proved that. The news that Rupert Murdoch might even lose his position as the supreme media ruler because of this scandal proves that any business is like a close knit family with consumers being its most important members. If those members only drift away, that family can never prosper. So, whether in the form of a fiscal report or festival greetings, rule number 1 for all the businessmen out there — Be fair; Be there.

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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