The Conscience Keeper Of Corporate Governance

The Conscience Keeper Of Corporate Governance

From a small village in Sikar to President of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), Dr. Shyam Agrawal is an epitome of the remarkable journey of grit, grace and gratitude. His story is one which is intriguing, motivating and captivating. A man from a humble background, he had an eclectic growing up. Coming from an economically modest agrarian family, his childhood was spent in his native village in Sikar. However, right after gaining primary education in the village, he moved to Nepal with his father who had shifted there in search of greener pastures.

The boy who had studied in Hindi medium until now felt completely lost in an English medium school. As if this cultural shock wasn’t enough his parents forbid him from mingling with Nepali children in the school.

This obviously had a bearing on his personality and he developed a sense of inferiority. He began to doubt whether he would be able to clear his matriculation even.  This is when a chance interaction with a friend helped him overcome his self-imposed isolation and more so the long cultivated ‘inferiority complex’. The gradual exercise of developing friendly relationships with classmates helped him not only regain his confidence but also put him in contact with a mathematics teacher, an area which had always been his

‘weak spot’.

“I shall forever remain grateful to that teacher who rather than teaching the ‘what’ explained the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of mathematics, the logic behind mathematical equations. He strengthened my basic knowledge of mathematics because of which not only did I gain confidence but was able to pass 9th standard with second division. It was a first turning point of my life,” Dr. Agrawal said.

The seemingly horrendous task of matriculation was cleared with even better grades. He not only got 73% but was also among the top four students in his class. What’s more the topper, a girl, asked him for his physics notes. “I cannot forget that moment till date. Even after achieving so many feats, I still consider that day as the happiest day of my life because till then I used to borrow notes from others but it was for the first time someone that too a topper had asked for my notes,” he said with a shy smile on his face.

Unfortunately, just when he had begun to settle in the new environment, life took a complete U-turn, bringing him back to Sikar. Being the eldest child in the family, there were no restrictions and he fell into bad company. “I joined the group of students who were not good at studies. I wandered around aimlessly. There was no goal or mission in my life,” he said ruefully.

Blaming this on lack of guidance, he continued, “My own experience suggests that millions of youths in villages and small towns do not have right mentors and access to proper guidance, which results in waste of their talent, there was no one who could analyse our competency and advice career options accordingly. This happens with so many students, ruining precious years of their lives”. After a failed attempt at CAT, on the advice of a friend,he joined the CS programme. At the same time, he started pursuing law. After initial hiccups, he did well in both. Later, he did his PhD in Law on the topic ‘Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises: An Analytical Study of Law, Practice and Procedures’. And, there has been no looking back since then.

The Journey To The Chair

“Getting elected in an organization whose examinations you have always found hard is a great achievement”, Dr. Shyam ever had. The elections which followed in the next year of his attaining membership in 2005 witnessed him and a lot many of his fellow members filing nominations with an intent to bring about the changes they wanted to see in the Institute.Reminiscing the days gone by, the Dr. Ponders and continues, “I contested for the Jaipur Chapter election and fortunately I got elected. On becoming the Chairman in 2009, I realised that the Chapter witnessed minimal attendance of students’ courtesy insufficient funds and lack of media coverage and plenty of other odd factors”. What followed was a series of mega events funded largely by way of sponsorship from notable people and corporate all of which brought the Jaipur Chapter of ICSI in limelight.

His achievements serve as the perfect example of dominos effect. His initiatives for ‘Jaipur Chapter’ built up a budding support for contesting elections of NIRC of ICSI in the year 2010. The zest for upliftment of CS profession led him to obtain ‘Highest First Preference Vote’ in NIRC elections and he was elected as a ‘Regional Council Member’ for the term 2011-14. Excellent approach towards his work led to his election as the ‘Vice Chairman of NIRC’ in the year 2013 and subsequently, for the position of ‘the Chairman, NIRC’ in the year 2014.

Moving forward, his sprightliness led him to be elected as a ‘Central Council Member’ for the term 2015-18 and then the ‘Vice President of ICSI’ during the year 2016. During all these years, he proved his exceptional organizational, administrative and leadership qualities. To mention particularly, this is a distinct instance of any member of ICSI winning elections in the very first attempt at the Chapter, Regional as well as Central Council level and occupying supreme positions at all these levels in the very first attempt at such a young age.

Thanks to his achievements, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of the Country, Shri Narendra Modi at the Inaugural ceremony of the Golden Jubilee Year of ICSI, addressed him as ‘Yuva Adhyaksh’. A mention of this achievement and the smile on his face is hard to miss.   

And The Achievements Continue…

Besides being a Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment, United Kingdom, the young achiever has proved his mettle and professional abilities at national as well as international platforms. With feathers aplenty to adorn his cap, he is a member and key role player in various committees of ASSOCHAM and other governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations of the likes of SEBI, MCA, etc. and won many accolades as well. Furthermore, he has been a Member of educational, advisory and discussion panels of leading newspapers; is a sought-after faculty at the diverse seminars, Study Circle Meetings and distinctive training programs of ICSI as well as other professional bodies both nationally and internationally. It goes without saying that he leaves no stone unturned to put interest of CS profession in a range of national print and electronic media.

He has always championed the fact that “Governments alone cannot accomplish all their initiatives; they need partners. And what good are institutions if they fail to provide the perfect partnership at the right time”. Holding social and ecological issues close to his heart, he also initiated a Signature Campaign on a clamorous theme ‘Save Water, Respect Nature and Global Warming’. Taking Governance beyond the Board Rooms, he has fervently been raising issues of improving the quality of Governance in the Indian Political Systems and also initiated campaign on “Cast Your Vote” in the rural and remote parts of our country to create awareness among people about value of their ‘Vote’. The recent initiatives of releasing the Corporate Anti-Bribery Code, the Model Code of Governance for Gram Panchayats, the Code for Charity Governance are a reiteration of his thought that, “Governance cannot be confined to corporate alone. The need of the hour, of the country is national governance”.

He is also a recipient of the Prestigious “Emerging Leader of the Year” Award in the year 2016. He holds positions of Director, Governance Research and Knowledge Foundation, ICSI and Director, ICSI Insolvency Professional Agency, ICSI Registered Valuers Organisation and vouches for taking the profession of Company Secretaries of India on a sky-scraping pedestal of Governance globally.

The Man Behind The President

Ask him about his personal life and the designation of the President, ICSI suddenly takes a back seat. Sounding well aware of the cons that come along with such a responsibility he feels that, “Good deeds too carry heavy price tags. One has to sacrifice most of it all, personal life… Family takes a backseat; parents, spouse, kids and friends…””I had won three consequent elections and each time, in the very first term, I got the highest position, which has probably not happened in the history of our Institute or any other institutions of similar background. Same was the case with CSIA, wherein in my very first meeting, I was elected as Secretary and again one of the youngest”, he continues. Question him about his family and he’s all praises for the women in the family, “It’s often said that behind every successful man, there is a woman; luckily I have three”, he says with a light grin and laughter. While mother and wife are the inevitably right guesses, a mention about the third one and the soft hearted father takes over the stern boss; “While my wife takes care of my family when I’m not around, filling up for my empty shoes, it’s my girl I miss the most. She’s the joy of my life, the girl who knows exactly when I’m down and how to pull me back up. I guess that’s why they say that you need to be super lucky to be blessed with daughters”.

Role Of Company Secretaries

The mere mention about the profession and the man is back in action. With his passion quite visible, each word that he speaks seems to be apt and not an exaggeration. Dr. Agrawal takes pride in the fact that being a vital link between the company and its Board of Directors, shareholders, government, regulatory authorities & all other stakeholders, a Company Secretary commands high position in the value chain and acts as a conscience keeper of the company. Pointing towards the multidisciplinary nature of the profession of Company Secretaries he mentions a whole list of services provided by Company Secretaries and ends the list saying “And this is not all. We are exploring new avenues and opportunities on a daily basis”. Quoting a few from his list, according to him, the services provided by CS include but are not limited to the areas of Corporate Governance & Secretarial Services, Corporate Law Advisory & representation, Financial Markets such as Public Issue, Listing & Securities Management Takeover Code, Insider Trading Securities Compliance & Certification, Banking, Finance & Accounting,  Taxation, International Trade & WTO, Management and Information Technology, etc. The most recent addition to this being services pertaining to Registered Valuation of Securities and Financial Assets.

Views On GST

Sharing his views on the recently implemented Goods and Services Tax (GST), a tax for the success of which the Hon’ble Prime Minister has set a certain expectation from the ICSI, Dr. Shyam says, “Taxation finds its roots in ancient India, and the texts of the likes of ManuSmriti and Arthashastra provide enough evidence for the same. Manu, the ancient sage stated in Manusmriti that the king should levy taxes on income according to shastras. Kautilya’s Arthashastra was the first authoritative text on public finance, administration and fiscal laws. Taxation being one of the major source of government’s revenue deserves significant attention in a developing economy. Coming forth as a system of taxation following the principle of ‘One Nation, One Tax’, GST is meant to bring together the state economies and create a single taxation system in the entire country for both goods and services. Based on the tax-on-valueadded concept which avoids duplication of taxes, GST has eliminated almost all the indirect taxes”.

It is his understanding of the fact that implementation of GST is not a smooth road both for the regulatory authorities gravelling it and the entrepreneurs and professionals travelling thereon, that the ICSI has been on its toes since, chalking out series of events, activities, publications and so on to support this initiative of the Government.

And what’s his take???

For a man who has tasted, sipped and relished success after plentiful struggle, the statement that “Ups and downs are part of life” seems more than apt. Opening up regarding the toughest part of his life, Dr. Shyam says, “The 2014 election of Chairman of the NIRC was the toughest part in my life, the time where for a moment I had thought that I might not become the Chairman. Looking back, I think I have taken a lot of risks, treaded on paths others have feared for the failures that may follow…For me, the struggle and the success is the grit behind taking every new day as a challenge, a challenge which for me is God’s way of gifting a little more success!”

Ask this ‘Yuva Adhyaksh’ on his message for the youth and he quotes an aphorism he strongly believes in “Jo hota hai, achhe ke liye hota hai aur achha kya hai ye baad me pataa lagta hai… The future is unpredictable but definitely good. The endings in life are always happy. If it’s not happy, it’s not the end! All it takes is a bit of patience, some ounces of faith and plentiful hard work to get through”.