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  • Writer's pictureNirmallya Roy Chowdhury

Brand Asset Creator

I began my career at Proctor & Gamble two decades ago, with the belief that honesty is the most valuable character trait. This belief has stayed with me throughout my career, working with both multinational and Indian companies, established businesses, startups, and leading my own team. Being truthful has paid dividends, both tangibly and intangibly. However, as an entrepreneur, I have been tested and have questioned whether truthfulness, integrity, and ethics have any place in modern-day business.

The definition of business ethics is undergoing a paradigm shift. For instance, ten years ago, taking a client out for drinks was frowned upon, but now it is considered essential etiquette. Clients themselves used to offer unmatched hospitality to business partners, and some mature marketers celebrated success with partners or agencies. Clients recognized the contribution of partners to their success and never compromised their core business.

Although ethical compliances have increased on paper, I have encountered mature clients who own up to their mistakes, as well as prospects and clients who have been fishy from the outset. They call for pitches, proposals, and ideas without offering a response or apology, and only change the selection benchmark to financial parameters, despite the pitch being technical parameters, such as ideas and concepts. Some even audaciously ask for their cut. I have given each of them a thumbs down and moved on.

I strongly believe that business schools and leaders must play an active role in promoting ethics and integrity in their organizations, not just on paper but in practice. In this modern, digitally connected world, where all our actions leave long digital footprints, Thomas Jefferson's quote that "honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom" will continue to hold true.


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