Thinkpad: The Story Of A Scam(s)
A composed image of Harshad Mehta. (Image: The Quint)

Thinkpad: The Story Of A Scam(s)

Happy Sunday.

Scam 1992, a web series recounting the story of Harshad Mehta, has captured the country’s attention. The story, the script, the acting, the theme song are all getting generous praise. Rightly so, in our view. You may disagree.

The series has brought back memories – for the traders who traded those times, the journalists who covered the scam, the officials who saw it play out. Those who were too young to register the happenings back then now know of at least one of India’s prominent financial crimes.

Sanjay Pugalia of Quintillion Media was among those who spent weeks and months on the story. He recalls those days in this nostalgic piece. Sanjay recounts lessons from the scam but also tells us of the times he and other journalists hung out at the Parliament Annexe, surviving on batata vada, waiting for briefings and sources. He and two other fellow journalists even formed their own special investigation team or SIT (Sanjay, Inderjit, Thakurta).

[That’s field journalism for you. Long days, interspersed with gossip, chai and bad jokes. PJs as we used to call them. Somehow you also file a story in the middle of all that.]

I digress. A few others have penned down retrospectives since Scam 1992 hit the screens. Jug Suriya, writing in the Times of India, recounts that there was a time when Harshad Mehta was seen as a hero and remembers the Lexus ride he managed to bum off Mehta. A more serious piece came in from veteran bureaucrat KP Krishnan who wrote in the Business Standard that one key learning from the scam remains untackled – the need to separate public debt management from the Reserve Bank of India. That’s a complex debate and we’ll save it for another day.

Staying with scams, the Netflix series ‘Bad Boy Billionaires’ also hit screens recently after winning and fighting a few legal battles. It includes the story of Vijay Mallya and Kingfisher, the still unclear story of Nirav Modi and baffling tales of the Sahara Group, which is fighting for a ban on the series.

Some of these stories are well researched, others partially so. [You’ll never find a journalist who fully agrees with another!]

The bigger and more encouraging trend is that the stories of anti-heros are being told. Yes, we want to know about the inspirational and the successful but we equally need to know about those who made mistakes, failed, went rouge.

The stories of IL&FS, Yes Bank, PMC Bank and many others must be told. The lessons from India’s large bankruptcies must be chronicled. Investigative and regulatory reports should be made public where possible, books published, and movies/series made. There are sometimes more important lessons in failure than in success. [Oops, that sounds like a corny post-it stolen from the internet, doesn’t it? But you get the point.]

We’ll close off on that note. Leaving you with a reminder that earnings season is here. At BQ, we are tracking the numbers but this quarter we are also trying to draw economic insights from the earnings. You can track those quick-takes on this running blog: Editors’ Take: What Q2 Earnings Say About The Economy.

Have a good weekend. Watch Scam 1992 or Bad Boy Billionaires if you haven’t already.

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