Three months into his first job as an IT consultant, newly minted MBA Phil Lee was wondering whether he had made a horrible mistake. Initially, he had been thrilled with his employer, Orion Information Technology Consulting, and the prospects for his professional future. He had specifically requested to work on projects in emerging markets, and his bosses had responded by flying him halfway around the world to New Delhi to meet with the head of procurement of a luxury property developer, Kirat Housing Development Society (KHDS). Lee thought the reason for the meeting was slightly unusual: Orion was planning to make a bid to supply building management software for KHDS’s newest luxury tower, and this meeting would be the “pre-bid” negotiation. Lee wasn’t totally sure what they’d even be discussing, as the tender already provided full details on exactly what modules would be required and even included specific penalty clauses for delays.
The meeting at KHDS seemed ordinary at first, but quickly took a turn when the assistant to the head of procurement explained that Orion would win the bid if it offered him a $200,000 contract as an “independent consultant.” Lee was stunned. To make matters worse, when he returned to his hotel room he found a gift waiting for him: an expensive-looking diamond pendant.