How much is two plus two? Don’t ask the auditors

Dewang Mehta, the head of the IT industry body NASSCOM for a good decade from 1991 to 2001, used to narrate a lovely anecdote that needs recounting now that the Satyam fraud has hit the false-roofing.

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An Indian IT company wants to appoint an auditor to look at its books. It floats a global tender. Since it is an IT company with global standards, the bar is high, very high. And since it is an IT company with global standards, only the best and brightest are expected to walk away with the contract.

Over a dozen applications are received from around the world by the company. The applications are evaulated and a short list is prepared. There are three companies left in the race to bag the prestigious contract: A European company, an American company, and an Indian company.

On D-day, the chairman of the Indian IT company, known for his extremely humble beginnings, himself decides to be present as the interview panel fires questions at them.

The European auditors are called in first for the interview.

Since the chairman of the company, known for his extremely humble beginnings, is around, the interview panel decides to ask a very simple question to break the ice: “How much is two plus two?”

The Europeans are aghast. They pick up their folders and walk out in a huff, unable to stand the insult to their intelligence.

Next, the American auditors walk in. Again the same question: “How much is two plus two?”

The Americans boot up their laptops, open their spread sheets, work the numbers, and arrive at their answer to show proficient they are with modern technology.

Finally, the Indian auditors walk in.

“How much is two plus two?” asks the chairman.

The Indian auditors gesture the chairman to step out of the interview room for a while.

Outside, they ask him: “How much would you like it to be, Sir?”