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Never thought I’d have two posts about Indian businesses and their practices, back to back. Although this post probably belongs under comedy rather than “business practices”. On Sunday November 28, Sahara, an expansive and highly dubious Indian company, bought up one page of the Times of India. Sahara (which means “support” in Hindi) is owned by one Subroto Roy, who is rumoured to be all sorts of things of which the most flattering are “cheat” and “a fixer”. It’s well known that there are all sorts of fraud and scams that have gone into making Roy disgustingly wealthy. I use the word disgusting with care. Roy’s behaviour generally makes the billion-dollar Ambani tower (a 27 storeyed cosy little home for four) look classy. Take the mega-wedding Roy had for his two sons, for example.

Roy’s company, Sahara, is as dodgy as the man himself. It supposedly started as a chit fund (if I remember correctly) and has gone on to be a money laundering option for a set of politicians who have a lot of dirty laundry. Now, I don’t know the specifics but from what I can gather from the full page ad, Sahara has been accused of irregularities in fund-raising by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). (From the kind of rumours that fly around about Roy, it’s amazing that there are any regularities at all in its functioning.) A miffed Subroto Roy decided that having a legal team to counter the SEBI’s charges wasn’t enough. He needed to rant, he wanted to tell the nation how he  felt and so on November 28, 2010, he printed in the Times of India “Sahara’s Response to SEBI’s imprudent and inappropriate ex-parte order”.

Page 13, Times of India, November 28 2010

It’s on page 13, nestled between Classifieds and Matrimonials, and looks exactly like it does up there. It may look all grey and legal – yes, the two boxes at the bottom Sahara’s financial statement, which must be genuine since it’s printed in the Times of India as an ad – but actually, this isn’t really something official. Some people who need to vent log on to their blogs. Roy took out a full-page advertisement for his blog-post-like reaction. Because that picture isn’t really big enough to read, allow me to quote some of the more choice parts of the Sahara statement.

“This is but obvious to whimsically hit the company and disturb its well wishers and investors from associating with it.”

“You please go through the part of our detailed last letter of 30th September 2010 to SEBI that clearly says why we have not sent the information.”

“We do not blame SEBI which is definitely a highly respected institution and we genuinely respect SEBI as an institution. Yes, there are sometimes such individuals who go unreasonable and baselessly biased  and create unnecessary and baselessly biased and create unnecessary problems. We are definitely pained.”

“Please do not disturb us unreasonably, unnecessarily. Please support on merit and bless us.”

“Out of confusion so many newspapers etc. had mentioned about Rs. 20,000 crore plus Rs. 20, 000 crore etc. SO…

…One Should Know About Sahara’s Financials.”

“WE ARE ABSOLUTELY AND RELIGIOUSLY LAW ABIDING ORGANISATION NOT BECAUSE WE FEAR LAW BUT WE RESPECT LAW OF THE LAND.”

“Respected Readers must be understanding the intentions clearly.”

As one of the readers whom Sahara and Roy are respecting so deeply, I have four things to say. 1. I can virtually hear Roy saying this out loud when I read it. 2. The entire ad reads like it was translated from Hindi to English by Babelfish. 3. If others follow this trend of full-page ads with statistics, newspapers can give up on writing articles altogether. Instead of reported pieces, we can read and get our news from advertisements like this one. 4. Life in India sometimes feels like the movie “The Truman Show”. Just that instead of being in Ed Harris’ imagination, it’s as though we live inside one of The Onion writers’ heads.

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