One day in the early 1990s, I visited my customer, a private limited company, to finalise their requirement of spare parts for 4 machines which were in the last month of Warranty. The Managing Director introduced me to their new General Manager who had been the DGM (Materials) of a large automotive ancillary. The MD told me that henceforth, the GM would handle all spare parts requirements. All capital equipment requirements would continue to be handled by the MD. He also told the GM that he had very high regard for me and trusted me completely. After a cup of tea, I accompanied the GM to his room.
The GM explained to me that, while we had submitted a quotation for various spare parts amounting to about Rs. 60,000.00, most of these parts were not needed immediately. They would immediately order only the urgently required spare parts amounting to about Rs. 5,000.00.
This was followed by an interesting conversation.
GM: How much cash payment will I get?
I: Sorry, sir. Our prices do not contain any provision for cash payment.
GM: You should be able to pay something, at least a few percent.
I: Sir, even if we can pay 5% of the order value, it would be only Rs. 250.00. I would not like to insult you by offering such a low amount. It would be worse if my Head Office agrees to a lower percentage like 2%.
GM: I’m OK with whatever you can offer. Please check with your Head Office and let me know. When can I expect your call?
I: The day after tomorrow.
The GM had actually asked for a bribe of Rs. 100.00 (2% of Rs. 5,000.00)! Even considering that their annual requirement of spare parts would be about Rs. 60,000.00, 2% of that amount would be Rs. 1,200.00 per year. As I had told him, this would not be a bribe, it would be an insult!
I was totally confused. Was this guy actually asking for a measly bribe of Rs. 1,200.00 per year, or was he testing me? If he was testing me, was it with or without his MD’s knowledge and approval? If he was actually asking for a bribe, wasn’t he afraid that, in view of my excellent equation with his MD, I might report the matter to his MD? Of course, I realised that, if I reported the matter, he would claim that I had misinterpreted his attempt to get a discount for the company.
I had to close the matter. After considerable thought, I hit upon a solution. Two days later, I telephoned the MD on his direct line, explained that I had been trying to reach the GM, but was unable to get through (this incident took place before the advent of cellphones), and informed him that I had referred the GM’s request for discount to my Head Office, but we could not offer any discount. The matter was closed.
That day, I realized 2 things:
1. Corruption is universal. It is not only politicians, policemen, government servants and public sector employees who ask for bribes. Even private sector employees ask for bribes.
2. Corruption can be addictive. Often, persons who start making money by unfair means continue to do so, sometimes without any sense of proportion.