Ramalinga Raju: the rise and fall of the IT poster boy

M. Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on April 09, 2015

Judgment day Former Chairman of Satyam Computers B Ramalinga Raju arrives for the final hearing at the Nampally Criminal Court in Hyderabad on Thursday. - NAGARA GOPAL

“Why, did you not get a job in Satyam Computers?”

This is the reaction of the mother of a young man from coastal Andhra Pradesh, who returns from US, and tells her that he has got a job in a US multinational.

The scene — from a popular Telugu movie about a decade ago — summed up the phenomenal rise of B Ramalinga Raju, the founder-Chairman of Satyam Computers. Today, the 61 year old, once ‘Poster boy of Indian IT’, stands diminished in stature and headed to Cherlapally Jail on the outskirts of Hyderabad to serve a seven-year sentence.

The man, who rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty in the IT world globally, made a presentation with the then US President Bill Clinton on the dais and built an envious $2 billion (which later proved to be an inflated number) company, all in two decades, was responsible for perpetuating corporate India’s biggest fraud in 2009.

The be-spectacled, soft spoken Ramalinga Raju’s rise and fall is the stuff of legend: a ‘rags to riches’ story and then how the lure of money, fame and unfettered ambition to grow did the man in. From small beginnings in Bhimavaram in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, Raju moved to Hyderabad. Not interested in his father’s old economy businesses, he dabbled in real estate, before entering the IT sector. He rose like a ‘superstar’ on the country’s IT firmament, perching Satyam computers at fourth biggest and himself donning the Chairman-ship of Nasscom.

His undoing was a strange mix of unrelated diversification into realty (Maytas, Satyam in reverse) and forced nexus with political bigwigs —YS Rajasekhara Reddy and N Chandrababu Naidu. The downslide in the global economy and political reality of elections in Andhra Pradesh forced the hand of Ramalinga Raju, who was silently camouflaging his acts of forgery, fraud and inflating employee numbers to financials for several years to emerge with a confession on January 7, 2009 of his fraud and quote of how he was riding a tiger and did not know to get off, and thereafter slowly sink into history from a hero for young IT professionals and entrepreneurs into a zero.

Published on April 09, 2015
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