Rising from the ashes: Satyam's story

Tanvi Gautam (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University, Singapore)

Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies

ISSN: 2045-0621

Publication date: 21 February 2014

Abstract

Subject area

Leadership, human resource management, crisis management, change management and communication.

Study level/applicability

Executive education; postgraduate; undergraduate.

Case overview

This case study describes the collapse of Satyam, a leading IT industry service provider from India. Satyam went into a crisis mode after revelation of financial fraud by its Chairman. This resulted in a crisis not just for the company, its clients and employees – but it also had the potential to shake up the entire Indian IT industry the world over, by shattering investor and client confidence in the Indian IT sector. The case provides the students with an inside view of the unfolding of events at Satyam and the people challenges that emerge in a crisis scenario. The case outlines reactions from the industry, government, clients and employees as they tried to make sense of a very chaotic situation, and its multi-level ramifications both within India and outside. The case ends with Thallapalli Hari, the Global Head of Marketing and Communication and ex-head of HR, trying to visualise and prioritise a course of action to propose to other members of the leadership team.

Expected learning outcomes

The key aim of this case is to provide a backdrop to the crisis, and also help students put themselves in the role of an HR crisis manager as well as portray the decision making and communication challenges that emerge in chaotic situations. The importance of an immediate and yet strategic response is emphasised and the case is a great starting point to have a discussion on the competencies and skills required in HR to lead under unusual circumstances. This case allows participants to get an in-depth understanding of the collapse of Satyam. The case also illustrates principles of leadership, change management and communication, in particular:

  • Leadership: The Satyam story is an HR and leadership crisis nightmare come true. What should an HR leader do when you wake up to find your company with a ruined reputation, minimal financial capital, 53,000 employees on the payroll and more than 500 clients with pending deliverables worldwide. Where do you begin? The case illustrates a situation where immediate action is required to stop the tailspin into which the company was heading.

  • Change management: The situation demanded that change be managed from a chaotic system to a stable system. The big issue though remains as to how one can get a system into a state of stability when everything is changing at the same time. Most change management plans have some stable variables, however in the case of Satyam there were multiple changes taking place simultaneously. A combination of change in leadership, client relationships, employee trust and confidence, market reactions together make for a perfect storm. Dealing with even one of these changes is a challenge for a company. In the case of Satyam, its entire existence was at stake.

  • Communication: The demands for communicating effectively in a crisis situation are different than communicating under stable systems. The choice of medium, the speed of response, the content all need careful monitoring. Whereas most companies have teams that separately deal with internal and external communication, Satyam provides a unique situation where managing both effectively at the same time was critical to the future of the firm. The stakes for effective communication are much higher under the circumstances. This case can be used in organizational behaviour, human resources and corporate communications modules being taught to under-graduates, post-graduates and for executive education.

Supplementary materials

Teaching notes are available for educators only. Please contact your library to gain login details or email support@emeraldinsight.com to request teaching notes.

Keywords

Citation

Gautam, T. (2014), "Rising from the ashes: Satyam's story", Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies, Vol. 4 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/EEMCS-02-2014-0062

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, 2013, Tanvi Gautam

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