The Untold Story behind Tech Mahindra's Satyam Acquisition

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  • Topic: Auction, Tech Mahindra, Bidding
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  • Published : August 27, 2012
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The Untold story behind Tech Mahindra’s Satyam Acquisition

Now that’s a very powerful title for an article coming as it does from an ex Tech Mahindra staffer who spent close to 13 years at the company and who had a front row seat, if not the ringside view.

However, let me state here that this is not an official version nor have I been encouraged by any of Tech M’s management team to write this piece. This story has been put together through my personal observations, side line conversations during offsite meetings, parties and also from my discussions with the media; I have some dear friends in the media you see.

When the results of the government lead auction was declared, I was at the offices of Oracle in Dubai Internet City in Dubai.

“Hey! Did you hear? Tech M is the successful bidder for Satyam at the auction.” 

"WHAT!!!!?" we exclaimed.

Satyam’s Oracle Alliance executive was there too and we ran into him in the lift and I noticed his face pale.

For the media, Anand Mahindra, Vineet, CP and Sanjay had become poster boys overnight who had saved India and the Indian IT industry from a potential humiliation. 

In the following weeks after the Raju admission, the gloves had come off with all leading IT companies and it was like the wild carnivores circling the fallen animal and trying to pick up the choicest pieces of meat. Analysts provided their shrill views on how IT companies may want to target Satyam’s customers and wean them their way. Even at Tech Mahindra there was a constant buzz on how we should be targeting Satyam's telecom customers or hiring away their sales people.

As all of this panned out, the government constituted a committee headed by Deepak Parekh to conduct an auction of the troubled company. 

The committee came up with a unique set of terms and conditions for conducting the bidding process. 1.  Satyam had to be bought in an As Is Where Is basis. Almost like an accident hit car. You could go around the vehicle, kick the tyres a bit, maybe even open the bonnet and look inside but no test drive please and please don’t ask for any history data. Anyway all history data was make believe straight out of someone’s imagination. 2. There would be a 2 stage bidding process. If in stage 1, the difference between the highest bidder and the second highest bidder was less than 10% of the highest bid value, then there would be a stage 2 bidding process. 3. If the difference between highest bidder and second highest bidder was greater than 10%, then the highest bidder wins and Satyam becomes his. (In Indian folklore there is a concept of swayamvar where men won their brides in a kind of a bidding process.)

Tech Mahindra perhaps had 3 of the sharpest minds in deal making and business agility in Vineet Nayyar, CP Gurnani and Sanjay Kalra.  Of course they had the big thinking and global perspective of an Anand Mahindra to back them to the hilt.

The As Is Where Is condition and the enormity of scam scared away a lot of the big boys. IBM which apparently had considered at one time a possible tie up / acquisition of Satyam I am sure must have been one of them. Satyam clearly became a possible target acquisition if at all for a company that wanted to leap frog into the big league that was currently the privy of the SWITCH set. 

Leading MNC companies like Microsoft, IBM and analysts had coined the acronym SWITCH for the Indian IT biggies – Satyam, Wipro, Infy, TCS, Cognizant and HCL. (the joke within Techy when we won the bid was that the acronym will now be TWITCH) 

The WITCH were clearly not too keen to pick up the troubled company. Over time it became evident that there would only be 3-4 bidders for the troubled company and clearly it was the wannabes – Larsen and Toubro Infotech (LTITL), Tech Mahindra, Patni etc. 

Now this is where things get interesting. The Tech Mahindra bidding team used every possible source to pass on a message that they were not interested in...
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