7 Lessons of Integrity in the Face of Corruption
Raja Singh has been a financial consultant in India for more than 40 years. As a Christian businessman, he built a sizable accounting firm in the city of Mumbai, India, called RK Khanna and Associates. He is also the founder of the Logos Management Club. His style of business is unique in India, because in the history of being in business, he has never made or taken a bribe, which is almost unheard of in India’s cultural context. But because of his faith and integrity, he made a vow to never deal in bribery. The Global Leadership Network is proud to partner with him to help bring The Global Leadership Summit to India and show people that you can marry Christian integrity with business and still thrive.
Is it possible to practice as a chartered accountant with integrity and be successful?
That was the question lurking in my mind 40 years back when I started as a chartered accountant. I went to some of my colleagues, including some senior chartered accountants, and asked them the question. They said, No it is not—not if you have to deal with the income tax department, which is considered to be one of the most corrupt departments in the government of India. They told me, You should be ready for some unethical things if you want to make money.
I went to some pastors. I asked the same question. And they said, Yes, but it depends on what your meaning of success is. In a spiritual sense you will be successful. Culturally, you might be poor in this world.
That was not the answer I was looking for! I re-framed my question:
Is it possible to practice as a chartered accountant with integrity and be successful, in a worldly sense?
I couldn’t find an answer. I was struggling.
I was a born-again Christian, so I was clear in my mind that I needed to be a witness in the marketplace. But I also wanted to be successful. Will the two go together? That was the burning question I didn’t have an answer to.
I was a born-again Christian, so I was clear in my mind that I needed to be a witness in the marketplace.
One day I was preparing for a case I had to argue in the tax department, and I was worried. The case appeared to be difficult, but as a young accountant, I wanted to win that case. I wanted to prove myself.
A good friend of mine, another accountant, asked me, What’s the matter? You’re looking a bit tense.
I said, This is the matter. He looked at the case and agreed that it was difficult.
Then he said, Don’t worry. I have contacts. I can fix this for you at a very reasonable price.
For someone aspiring to be successful, it was a very tempting offer. But because of my foundation with Christ, I declined the offer. Before my friend left my office, he said, Raja, you must be a fool! Look at me. Look at how successful I am. If you want to be successful and make money, forget all your so-called principles.
I went home with a heavy heart, and my question still ringing in my head.
I came back the next day and started looking at the case again. I said a prayer, and I started working. You know what happened? I had a bright idea as I was preparing. I developed the case based on this idea, and I won! Just imagine what would have happened if I had succumbed to temptation? I would not have developed my new argument.
Lesson 1: The challenges that arise while practicing integrity sharpen your mind and produce excellence in you.
As the years went by, it appeared that I was doing well, even while maintaining my integrity.
“I would rather pay fees to a professional than pay bribes to the government.”
One of my clients has a large family business, and we were only handling 30 percent of the cases. He came to me one day, and told me, Look Raja, you’re handling 30 percent of the cases now, but I want you to handle all the cases in our office.
I was a little shocked, amused and surprised because I knew that the other 70 percent was being handled by somebody in their family. So, I asked why.
He said, Mr. Singh, what he is able to achieve by paying bribes, you are able to achieve by fighting it out. I want you to do that. I would rather pay fees to a professional than pay bribes to the government.
Lesson 2: People, irrespective of their faith, prefer being honest, if only there is someone who can effectively help them towards that.
The question becomes, are we ready to fill that gap?
I must share this story about a gentlemen who called me up. He was not a client of mine. He said, I heard about you. I want your help. I have a big financial problem, and I will pay whatever your fee is. Can you help me? So, we met.
I asked, What is your big financial problem?
He said, My problem is too much money, all in black [illicit money].
He had a business where he essentially had to generate money in black [illicitly]. Over the next few months, we started working with him. He worked sincerely with us, and we moved his business from a non-compliant one to a compliant business for the future. He liked it. He was so thankful.
At the end of it, he asked me, What makes you different from most of the other financial consultants I’ve met? Wow! What an opportunity to share Christ! And I exploited the opportunity to the fullest.
Lesson 3: Integrity and excellence in your profession can create the most effective platform for sharing the gospel.
These incidents and many others in my life gave me an answer to my lurking question. Is it possible to practice as a chartered accountant with integrity and be successful in this world in a worldly sense?
Yes, it is!
Lesson 4: Your integrity coupled with excellence will lead you to success in this life and impact eternity.
By this time, I developed my purpose in life. Thirty years ago, my wife and I discussed, prayed and wrote down the purpose of our lives. The purpose in my life is to use my profession as an accountant, my possessions in this world and my positions in society for the propagation of the gospel.
And as I look at this, I realize I can achieve my purpose in life only if I handle my profession, my possessions, and my positions with integrity and excellence.
Along the way, we still had our struggles.
One day, we decided to sell one of our properties. And as you can imagine, there was no one available to pay the full amount in white [legally]. I told someone I was a Christian, and they said all Christians still pay in black [illicitly]. I told him I’m a Christian and I won’t accept. Then finally, I was able to find one person who was willing to pay a slightly reduced amount all in white. Everything was ready to be signed.
I can achieve my purpose in life only if I handle my profession, my possessions, and my positions with integrity and excellence.
Then just a week before, my wife and I got a phone call from him. He said, I’m sorry. I’m not able to arrange the full amount in white and you will have to accept the smaller amount in black.
I said, That’s not what we agreed upon. He told me there was no other way to arrange it, otherwise, he would not be able to go ahead with the deal.
That wasn’t something I was prepared for. I had already arranged a few things and made some financial commitments I couldn’t break. I had all those things already laid out, and I couldn’t afford to sell the property. So, I asked him to wait 10 minutes. Then I went to my wife and said, It appears that we cannot go ahead with this deal unless we accept a small amount in black.
She looked at me without batting an eyelid, and said, Raja, after being honest all these years, do you want to be dishonest now? So, I immediately called him back and told him, I’m sorry, I cannot take even one rupee in black. And the deal was off.
I couldn’t complete my meal. I didn’t sleep that night. The only good thing that happened was it improved our prayer life.
Then after three months, we had another offer. This deal was better, and it was all in white. The deal was complete. We signed. We got the money and satisfied all our commitments.
Lesson 5: If you are serious about pursuing your purpose in life with integrity and excellence, you need to develop the kind of commitment displayed by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Do you remember what they said? If we are thrown into a blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. [Daniel 3: 17-18]
Not long ago, my son completed his training as a pilot. He went to Delhi to have his license collected, but he found out he couldn’t obtain it unless he paid a bribe to some of the lower level staff. He called me and said, Daddy, it’s very clear, that unless I pay the bribe of 5,000 rupees, I’m not going to become a pilot today. And before I could give him my answer, he said, Daddy, even if I don’t become a pilot, I’m not going to pay that bribe. And if I’m not a pilot, I will take it as God’s will.
Whatever you do, work, at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters.
I put the phone down. I said a small prayer with tears welling in my eyes. Thirty minutes later, I received the next call from my son. He said, Daddy, time is up, and I’ve received it without paying a bribe!
A few months later, my son joined Indigo as a pilot. During the commissioning service, the MC asked him to share his favorite quote or poem. My son quoted Colossians 3:23 from the Bible. Whatever you do, work, at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters.
I tapped my wife and said, You know what? He has not only learned integrity, but also the importance of excellence.
Lesson 6: A man of integrity and excellence will leave behind the greatest legacy, which is integrity and excellence in his children.
I gave you lessons I’ve learned throughout my life, but I want to give you the overarching lesson:
Lesson 7: Purpose. Integrity. Excellence. = P.I.E.
P.I.E. is not a cake walk. Living a life of purpose, integrity and excellence is challenging. Be ready to work hard. If you are keen on fulfilling your purpose of being a witness in your workplace with integrity and excellence, commit this to your daily prayer. You can’t do it unless you have the support of God.
Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass.
This is a big matter. Also, muster the support of your spouse as you endeavor to live your purpose of witnessing for Christ in your workplace with integrity and excellence. Without the support of your spouse, it will be most impossible. Whenever I’m arguing a case in the revenue department, I know my wife is on her knees praying for me. She never fails to pray for me whenever I’m in an important meeting or a tricky or difficult meeting.
My favorite Bible verse is Psalm 37:5: Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass.
How I long to see each of you live your purpose.
To watch Raja Singh’s original talk, see below: