Was demonetization (aka Demon, De(mon), or DeMo) a good or bad idea? We’ve all heard this question in our living room, office canteen, gym, TV debates and neighbourhood grocery store since 2016. While some defend the Demon, some call it a colossal blunder. Whatever your point of view, the date (NOVEMBER 8, 2016) has gone down in BOLD letters in India’s economic history. UAE-based Chartered & Cost Accountant turned author Murali Raghavan too strongly argued with his friends and colleagues about how it would benefit the government and the drawbacks of the abrupt demonetization decision.
Many corrupt individuals with large amounts of black money in cash would rather risk losing their money than depositing it in their bank accounts and risk the wrath of IT officials. Initial estimates indicated that the RBI would have a windfall gain of INR 4 lakh crores. “In late 2017, when it was revealed that more than 99.6% of the notes had been deposited, I was still wondering how the dishonest politicians and businessmen had gotten rid of their ill-gotten wealth. This thought kept coming back to me until I started to pen down notes around this topic,” says Raghavan, who is also a co-founder of the company CFOSME.
Raghavan discovered a website called Script a Hit, which claimed to be open to ideas. He submitted his idea with a leap of faith, and to his surprise, it was approved. After the concept was approved, Script a Hit spent several months refining it and creating a comprehensive synopsis. “While the basic idea came from me, they added numerous layers to the narrative and numerous new plotlines to produce an engrossing financial thriller. To come up with a plausible method for the protagonist to hack into the banking system and download records, their team also spoke with IT banking security experts. As a finance professional, I was unaware of money laundering until I started reading the book, the author, who finds great strength in religion,” he says, adding, “I regularly recite the Hanuman Chalisa and Vishnu Sahasranamam.”
A senior financial journalist employed by Script a Hit wrote the book. Demon, as a short form, was the term that was frequently used after demonetization. The book discusses benami accounts, dummy supplier accounts set up by numerous businesses to steal money, hawala transactions, foreign investments from Maldives corporations, etc. The chartered accountant says, “The book goes to great lengths to explain these concepts in a simple way that makes it easy for all readers to understand.”
The book Riding the De(Mon) examines the business-politician nexus, which is common in both developed and developing nations. The narrative is entirely fictitious and not based on any real-world politicians or business people. How does he view the current state of affairs in India, given the recent arrests of wanted criminals like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi as well as significant banking frauds?
“I believe it is incorrect to concentrate on a small number of defaulters; instead, consider the overall picture and the total amount of non-performing assets in the banking system. Although I am not an expert, I feel very confident that the banks are not facing significant challenges because both domestic and international rating agencies have upgraded the outlook for the Indian banking sector,” says the 55-year-old, who grew up reading Sidney Sheldon and crime fiction. He adds that overall KYC and other banking constructs have been strengthened. Will it go away, perhaps not, but the system as a whole is improving and we have to acknowledge that.
Raghavan, who previously worked with leading firms like Ford Rhodes and Price Waterhouse enjoys watching comedy programmes and legal thrillers, says, “I end up binge watching because of how great the Indian content is on Netflix and Amazon. I love Hindi music a lot, and I frequently listen to older R. D. Burman songs.”
Title: Riding the De(mon)
Author: Murali Raghavan