Learning from the Business of Crime

Business of crime

There is a lot to learn from the criminal business – trust, accountability, kinship, responsibility among others

(Note: I do not subscribe to criminal activities nor am I justifying them. Such activities are anathema to me.)

I was narrated a very interesting anecdote by my friend. An acquaintance of his was asked to consult with a man of questionable credentials (from a business perspective). While the acquaintance was deflecting the topic of working with the man, finally the man spoke up and said – “In my kind of work only one thing works and that is trust. Without trust, we cannot survive”. The acquaintance was surprised and later took the assignment, and it was to her, one of her best.

In a world of increasing competition between companies and employees within these companies, business relationships are guarded and safeguarded by legalese. Reams of papers with clauses and sub-clauses bind these relationships. On the other hand, crime and criminals are held together by the minimum of documents (for fear of being caught and providing fodder for prosecution). They are held together primarily by the trust which relies largely on a verbal agreement. Incidentally, there are high risks involved in such an agreement. Many of the institutional safeguards designed to compensate for the consequences, such as the legal system (which comprises courts, police and other sanctioned bodies like law enforcement agencies) are unavailable.

Trust, it is said, reduces the uncertainty regarding the behaviour of potential accomplices to a tolerable level and thereby stimulates the willingness to co-offend (Weerman 2003; Zaitch 2002). The importance of trust is best highlighted by Nkilas Luhmann “Without trust, only very simple forms of human cooperation which can be transacted on the spot are possible, and even individual action is much too sensitive to disruption to be capable of being planned, without trust, beyond the immediately assured moment. Trust is indispensable to increase a social system’s potential beyond these elementary forms”

Apart from this, there is a need and also a tendency of the criminals to be part of the ‘clan’ – a kind of kinship which explains to a large extent the trust factor between them. Kinship creates a sense of belonging and it is this feeling which drives criminals to stick together. In fact kinship and the resultant trust is a competitive advantage in the crime business. These bonds created through kinship are seen largely in the organized crime business which functions much like a parallel corporate business without professionalism.

Given the situations these persons work in, it is without a doubt extremely difficult. Fear exists of being caught unaware, fear of being caught by the legal system, fear of being caught by rivals, fear of no legal recourse and last but not least the fear of the ultimate punishment – death! It is in these extreme emotional conditions that these criminals are expected to perform efficiently. Working under pressure usually separates the men from the boys.

Apart from the emotional angle, the very same conditions along with the fact that most activities have to conduct clandestinely make it even more taxing physically.

In a corporate scenario, in the failure of a relationship and especially if it gets nasty, the option to turn legal always exists and hence the need to have long-drawn-out legal agreements. In the criminal world, it is less if not nonexistent. As is seen by the documentation the Indian legal system has been able to implicate so-called powerful politicians. Since the criminal system eschews documentation – any breakdown in relationships/ dealings cannot go the legal way. However, justice, in this case, can be drastic.

Failure to commit a task or even breaking the trust (in different ways) can result in retribution which can also be of the final order – life-threatening. In such a scenario where punishment can be in the crudest form of emotional and physical torture, the downsides are very very high!

While I do not have to delve deep into the various factors which I have listed above concerning the regular corporate world, there are times when I do think that corporate life can be not so pleasant if not a vicious experience – a political minefield so to speak. Factors such as trust, belonging etc., seem to be a memory of the distant past. One-upmanship seems to be the order of the day. Any organization needs to function as a team/ family. Disparate messages create dissonance.

I have noticed that people are not committed to the cause of the organization, they are merely there as travellers. They are not bothered by failure and look at short-term goals. When the time for analysis comes in, the person is long gone!

With such a dynamic and rapidly changing environment, it becomes more than imperative to roll up one’s sleeves and face the battle in the marketplace. Business today can be emotionally and physically draining. The rules of business are constantly changing and it is best to be prepared for them. Many employees come in intending to take it easy!

It is for us to take the better parts of the criminal system to understand where we stand in the real world. There is no substitute for hard work and there cannot be a parallel system. However, it is startling that the parallel economy is half the size of the main economy in India! Therein lies the success and the worry!

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