Monday, July 27, 2009

The Corporation

Let me assume a hypothetical scenario 20 years from now and let my imagination fly wild for a while.

The year is 2029. Google, now a conglomerate giant with huge presence in all domains is looking to work closely with the Andra Pradesh state government in India. Google has diversified in clean energy,sun power,mechanical industry,defense,manufacturing and what have you.

It signs up an MOU with AP state government to set up a shop in Vijaywada. But there's also a clause in it's contract. That Google has the right to create it's own private army, and if attacked by Naxalites, who are against Google's presence in India, strike back at them.

Much to the dislike of AP's people the government allows Google to build it's own private army to protect itself and it's employees. Soon Google sets up it's shop in Vijaywada.

In the meantime Google realizes that it can now venture into building Army which is turning out to be a profitable business itself. It can outsource it's army to different state governments who are dealing with their own set of armed conflicts.

So now Google ties up with all and sundry and provides state-of-the-art Armed forces with awesome weaponry and all. Google's army is now more powerful and effective than Indian State's army. Seeing this Google's parent country, USA, smells blood. It can now leverage this company's presence to brow beat Indians into buying American stuff.

In the meantime Google contact's Chelsea Clinton, the first female President of the United States and asks her to talk to United Kingdom to change certain monopoly laws of the nation. UK's tough laws had blocked Google Search engines as it wasn't adhering to it. After much arm-twisting from USA, UK under duress from Chelsea allows free search engines of Google. The entire UK IT work force is upset.

But that's not enough. Now Google also wants it's bete noire China to fall in line. China has blocked all Google searches in it's country owing to some controversy in the year 2025. This is seriously hitting Google's revenue in the Mandarin region. USA, takes advantage of a contract it had signed with China, and claims China is dishonoring it's deal. USA threatens of an all out Economic Blockade if China does not budge, and both are almost at war with each other.

If you've read so far, I am sure either of the two things have happened. You think I am on pot or that writing crazy fictional accounts is my new weekend hobby.

This surely sounds crazy, no? Can such a company ever exist? Can a Corporation be so powerful so as to influence four Big nations and their governments?

But then what if there existed that kind of Corporation. What if that Corporation through it's policies influenced lives of all the exact same nations I mentioned. What if that Corporation during it's 275 years of presence changed the world order?

Yes, it did. It was called East India Company; a company that ruled over the global fortunes for good part of it's 275 years of history. We have had empires wrap up in shorter times than East India Company's run.

East India Company (EIC)had it's own private army. It used to have strategic alliances with various Kingdoms in India who would outsource the management of their armed conflicts to it (Ray's Shatranj Ke Khiladi has a great scene about this particular part). EIC, of course had a far superior man power and weaponry. Slowly East India Company expanded into good part of the country, and on seeing the profit in armed conflicts in India, the Queen jumped in. The company came first; the Raj came next.

After the Battle of Plassey, East India Company made huge losses, and to compensate, it asked Great Britain (The Brits were the colonists) to dump all Tea into the US as that Company faced financial crisis post the battle (similar to my fictional story where Google asks USA to change UK laws). This led to the Boston Tea Party as free Tea angered the local population. That was the tipping point.

EIC also forced Britain to go to war with China as China had angered it with all curbs (This was just a pretext that Britain used against China, similar to my crazy story). It was called the Anglo-China opium war.

So in a strange way during that rough period, USA,India and China shared a common enemy. That enemy was East India Company.

We have seen giants like GE,GM,IBM, Micro-soft,Google etc in our lifetime. None of these even remotely compare as far as influence of power of EIC is concerned. And look at it's duration!! 275 years. That is mammoth; Massive by any standards.

I don't have a specific point about writing this post. But something was remarkable about East India Company; that I never fully comprehended before this book I read on the 'Greatest Corporations ever to rule the world'.


Rathchakra said...

You hit the nail with EIC, the greatest management success story EVER. Along the Google metaphor, there actually are corporations which influence the lives of millions (and not in a good way) that exist today: Monsanto, Exxon Mobil, Shell, The Russian state owned gas company, large drug companies. These companies have altered national boundaries, changed Governments, run and/or control Government(s) or Government policies that influence so many of us everyday (without majority of us even knowing about it). The CORPORATIONS are the new NATIONS.

kautilya said...

Corporations are part and parcel of a Capitalist system. No one can deny that. But I am not sure, I would broad-brush all of them as massive,money guzzling entities who are no good.

Majority of them are good, and are extremely important to drive the economy. Of course in a perfect world all would be Angels. But lets face it; the alternatives are terrible.

Give me a Capitalist (yeah, however bad it may sound) any day over the suffocation of Socialist regimes where the POWER lies in hands of a select few (sometimes within one family)

Imagine life without MS,Google,GE,IBM,TATA or even for that matter Hollywood big ones.

All have been milestones in their own way. We cannot ignore their contributions big and small. Even today, their presence helps huge number of people.

I may sound as a red-neck, unabashed capitalist here (which I am not); and I am not denying their are wolves, but they are exception and not the law.

Corporations provide a counter balance to all round Government monopoly.

I don't want to start another thread on how Monopolistic regimes convert into poverty multiplying agents and create a world order where people have to run to "new avenues" for "opportunities".

The very fact that some 'create' opportunities while other systems..'destroy' them... is a reason enuf to take a so called evil system over so called noble one.

And when I chose US as my country for next few years, I was fully aware of it being a Capitalist society. So it was a matter of choice as far as I am concerned.

I think I rest my case now.