Friday, February 17, 2006

Google – Tomorrow’s Dresdner Bank?

Google is fabulously rich company which hires smart people. One such high profile hiring by the company last year was of it’s VP of Global Communications and Public Affairs – Elliot Schrage; a foreign policy wonk. He was at his worth when Congress asked him questions about Google’s policy in regards to their China business. He was representing Google along with the esteemed company of other Silicon Valley leading lights – Yahoo, Cisco and Dark Force of Redmond – Micosoft.

All these companies are on the wrong track as far as their China Business practices go. Rep. Tom Lantos of San Mateo, ranking member of the House Committee, was as usual at his caustic best – ‘how can your corporate leadership sleep at the night with such shameless practices?’ Practices where privacy of users is compromised and censorship is applied at the insistence of dictatorial Chinese Government / Communist Party; all for the sake of some dimes.

The contrast was unbelievable – while Congress was taking these companies for task there was another corporate leader talking more sane thoughts. Narayan Murthy of Infosys in his characteristic style was presenting the case of more value based corporate governance his speech at George Washington University in Washington D.C. (http://specials.rediff.com/money/2006/feb/15infy.htm). The high point was when Murthy said “It's better to lose a billion dollars, than a good night's sleep." Well, not for the richest companies of the world – Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco. What a shame these companies bring to Silicon Valley where HP has been for years trying to inculcate corporate life with values. Google has been promising so far, but clearly missed in this case.

Few decades in future, probably these companies want to be remembered like those companies which helped slavery during Plantation Era or those companies which helped Nazi Government. New York Times reports the case of Dresdner Bank which is washing it’s maligned past in public. (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/18/business/worldbusiness/18dresdner.html) The case for privacy issues and censorship in totalitarian China is no different than these incidences in past. But apparently for the masters of web searches, they cannot get handle on such basic lessons of History.

May be Google is not getting the worth of Elliot Schrage when he has to defend that some time choices are not easy while conducting the global business. The choices are clear - it is the question whether these Masters of Technology companies have the will to withstand the pressures of Masters of Universe resident on Wall Street. So far it seems smell of Chinese Yuan is more important to Larry and Sergey, never mind they have enough money which can not be even burnt completely in their life time! Well, it will be some compensation when these companies will pay in billions in future in the law suits which will be brought by Chinese and other users in more trade integrated tomorrow’s world.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
February 18, 2006.

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