Chocolate and Gold Coins

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Letter to Instapundit

Someone who works at IBM wrote a wonderful letter to Instapundit about Gaurav Sabnis and his decision to resign from IBM:

As an IBM employee I was very interested to read about IBM vs The Indian Blogosphere, however if you read Gaurav Sabnis's post you'll see that isn't actually the case, or at least it shouldn't be. Rather it's a case of IIPM - The Indian Institute of Planning and Management - and their reprehensible tactics in attempting to silence a critic. As far as I can tell much of the brouhaha on this issue re:IBM has arisen from the article you linked to on Global Voices posted by Neha Viswanathan. That article excerpts Gaurav Sabnis's blog post where he announces that he's resigning from IBM, however it does so without mentioning why he left, loyalty.

It seems that the Dean of IIPM contacted Lenovo (IBM) and threatened them with a student protest where IBM Thinkpads would be burnt in front of the IBM offices in Delhi. In the face of what could only have been a public relations disaster Lenovo demanded that Gaurav do...nothing. No pressure was brought to bear, no demands were made, there was no "counseling session" where it was darkly hinted that any failure to mollify the demands of IIPM would go on his permanent record, nothing.

In fact Gaurav decided to resign because out of appreciation and a sense of loyalty to IBM. He wrote, "The second thing dear to me is IBM's well-being. IBM has been a good employer to me. I have no complaints about them. Even in light of these events, they did not pressurise me to go against my principles and hush the matter up. Yet, IBM was being dragged into this unnecessarily. It was being made a target of bizarre pressure tactics. If even one Thinkpad laptop was actually burnt, it would cause a lot of bad press and nuisance for IBM. So I did not want IBM's well-being to be compromised in any way."

To me that is the big story, that any corporation can still inspire such loyalty in it's employees that they'd rather leave the company than see it get hurt is, these days, nothing short of wondrous. That there are still people like Gaurav Sabnis who stick to their principles, even when it means making the tough decisions, is marvelous. I'm sorry I never got a chance to meet the man, or work with him, as he's exactly the kind of person we need to keep.

Glenn at Instapundit thought that IBM should have stood up for Gaurav and not accepted his resignation. No one really disagrees. The letter-writer seemed (to me) to be hinting that IBM should stood up for Gaurav in the last sentence.

(technorati tag)


  • Michael,

    I actually have the opposite opinion of IBM in handling this whole thing with IIPM. They should have refused to accept resignation from Gaurav and stood up to IIPM. The bluff of burning laptops would have easily been out. I linked to your earlier post on my blog, along with my opinions on why MSM is avoiding this issue, and IBM's stand on this. Please read it, if you have time.

    By Blogger Ravi, at 2:10 PM  

  • Ravi
    That was exactly Glenn's point and I have to agree 100 percent. But the letter spoke mainly of the loyalty Gaurav felt towards IBM (whether they deserve it or not) and what a remarkable person Gaurav is.

    His closing line, "I'm sorry I never got a chance to meet the man, or work with him, as he's exactly the kind of person we need to keep." suggests that he wished IBM stood up for Gaurav.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 2:29 PM  

  • Hi Michael,

    Gaurav is a man of high integrity and courage. It is a shame that he had to resign from IBM. I also wish IBM did not accept his resignation, but a man like him will be able to find whatever job he wishes.


    By Blogger Vikram A., at 3:18 PM  

  • Hi Michael
    I have followed this riveting case closely over the past few days and have desisted commenting on it, because though I feel that this case is important, there are bigger causes which mandate a call to arms. Like 30,000 dead in Pakistan bcos of the quake, which could use all the attention for help that anyone would care to talk abt.

    Well, but I digress. To get to the point here, I was apalled that IBM entertained IIPM over an employees personal life, in the first place. They should have said 'Thank you sir, for bringing this to our attention, but this is his personal business. So we suggest you take it up with him directly'. And that's that.

    The fact that they even brought it up to Gaurav was an indication that he ought to do something about this. In fact Gaurav should not have resigned, just to see how far will IBM go to back him up, as good employers should. If they would have fired him, it would have then become a freedom of speech issue and mandates a public bourhaha. For my 2 cents, he let them off the hook too easily by taking the path of least resistance.


    By Blogger Sourin Rao, at 5:19 AM  

  • Hi Vikram and Sourin
    Vikram: Indeed, he has shown an integrity that is very rare. Any firm would like someone like this.

    Sourin: I agree that IBM acted incorrectly. The pressure that IIPM put on IBM was completely out of bound. I think IBM was confused about the whole issue. They went to Gaurav in part because they didn't know what the issue was all about. And they should have figured it out faster and done the right thing by standing by Gaurav.

    I agree that Gaurav probably should have called IIPM's bluff. Did they have any laptops to burn? who knows.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:40 AM  

  • I agree with sourin. IBM should not have brought it up at all. In fact if this had happened in the US, the American supervisor would probably have not brought it up. However, everything works differently in India, I suppose. A lot of attention has to be paid to society and it's valuable opinion about everything under the sun.

    But in any case, I doubt that IIPM would have burnt any laptops. laptops cost money. IIPM is a corporation based on greed. Hence, it follows that they would not have done it. Because apart from the actual act of burning 200 laptops, they would also have had to transfer data from 2000 laptops to 2000 other computers in order not to lose it, and thats a big freaking task.

    By Blogger gawker, at 9:22 AM  

  • Hi Gawker
    Exactly: it was just a bluff.

    Btw, you have some excellent post on the IIPM thing on your blog IMHO and I would have commented on them but no comments. So I will just say that parody of the IIPM almost sounds like the real thing.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 11:48 AM  

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