Mind Without Fear: A trip down memory lane with ex-McKinsey chief Rajat Gupta
Former McKinsey chief Rajat Gupta, the first non-American to hold this position and later sentenced for an insider trading case, has found himself under the spotlight after the launch of his new book, Mind Without Fear.
Was he guilty or not? Well, the court in the United States certainly sentenced him to two years in jail on charges of insider trading. The reaction to his sentence ranged from shock to sadness, and the classic cynical response – ‘I told you so’.
This is the story of Rajat Gupta, arguably the first Indian to have reached the top echelons of the US corporate world, a kind of path breaker for many others to follow suit.
But the big question will always remain whether a man who was the toast of corporate America, rubbed shoulders with Presidents and Heads of States, and feted not just for his professional excellence but also for significant humanitarian activity, would indulge in criminal activities. Was it greed or an oversight?
Despite serving his sentence, Gupta did not withdraw into a shell. In fact, he has bravely come forward to narrate his story and strongly argues that he is not guilty of insider trading. He claims he was just a victim of circumstances.
In his book Mind Without Fear, Rajat Gupta traverses through all these incidents and puts a strong defence for people to decide whether he was really guilty or not. His sentencing came at the time when the US economy was reeling under severe economic depression following the Lehmann crisis. Gupta claims that he became an unwitting scapegoat due to the prevailing atmosphere during that time.
This would be a very difficult judgement to make but the description of events could make one believe that Rajat Gupta was too trusting a person and it was this blind faith, which led to his sudden downfall.
An IIT Delhi graduate, Gupta certainly had a difficult childhood as he lost both his parents when he was in college. Being the eldest in the family, he was responsible for looking after his siblings.
Eventually, he moved to the US to study at Harvard Business School and later, joined McKinsey where he spent 38 years.
The book offers a fascinating insight to his achievements of having worked in different geographies, and his engagement with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. He was the first non-American and the youngest to head the renowned global consultancy firm.
The uppermost question that will always remain on the mind of a reader, however, is – “Despite all the accomplishments, networking and the ability to think long term, how did Rajat Gupta end up in a situation where he was charged with insider trading?” He says his only regret was that he was advised not to testify in his defence during the trial.
His book is poignant - it describes the trials he had to undergo during his prison sentence, the separation of his family who he valued and loved, and the realisation of who his real friends were, given the vast network he enjoyed during his professional career.
The book is an easy read even to those who do not understand the various nuances of business world and more importantly the legal intricacies of the insider trading case. It effectively communicates the point of view of Rajat Gupta without being forceful about it.
In conclusion, Rajat Gupta’s book is a lesson in triumph of the human spirit against all odds. What matters in the end is the humanism one is able to carry through life.