You are here: Rediff Home » India » Business » Slide Shows » Photos
Search: The Web
  Email  |    Discuss  |   Get latest news on your desktop


Management lessons from Chanakya

Text: Utkarsh Rai

March 12, 2009

Throughout history, wars have left an indelible mark on human psyche. Serious debates have been held on the morality of and the strategic necessity for war. And yet, like every dark cloud that has a silver lining, wars too at times leave a society wiser.

India is no stranger to wars. And there are many lessons to be learnt from each of those battles -- management lessons, to be precise. Here we present the third in a series of articles on management lessons drawn from Indian history. This one picks out management gems from the role of the redoubtable Chanakya in the rise of the Mauyra empire.

Rise of the Maurya empire: Role of Chanakya (circa 320 BC)

Chanakya was also known as Kautilya and Vishnugupta. He wrote Arthashastra, the ancient Indian political thesis. There are several stories on Chanakya. One of them goes like this: Alexander's invasion of western India, circa 326 BC, led to political turmoil that provoked Chanakya, a renowned teacher of Takshila, to sew up a coalition to take on the Greek forces.

He tried to convince many kings, but none agreed to his plans. Finally, he came to Patliputra, the capital of Magadha, ruled by the powerful Nanda dynasty. He went to their palace and found ten golden thrones. Nine were for the Nanda princes and their father, and the tenth was for the most learned person. Chanakya quietly occupied it.

When the princes came back, they asked him to vacate the seat, but Chanakya didn't and demanded a debate to prove his supremacy. The Nandas rejected the debate demand and did not give him any position.

Lesson: Even though Chanakya was reputed and famous in Takshila, it does not mean he would be famous in Patliputra too. So his asking for the debate is justified to prove his worth. Similarly, a ‘high performer' in one team or company needs to prove his worth in a new environment to gain the same tag.

Chanakya was prepared to face it. But he could try a different approach for the desired result. In the corporate world, referral plays a major role in hiring key senior employees. If any of the key ministers of the Nandas had referred or introduced him, he might have got the position.

Image: An artist's impression of Chanakya

Also read: Management lessons from wars in India

The author, based in Bangalore, is the managing director of an IT multinational firm. He has also written two books: Offshoring Secrets, and the forthcoming Myths & Realities @ the Office.

Disclaimer: Since history is replete with different versions of the same event, chances are that some of the stories written here might not match with the version that the reader is conversant with. However, the article has been written not with the intention of being unerringly accurate on the historic account, but to use the event as a source of information from which to draw strategic management lessons.

Live updates on
© 2009 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.Disclaimer | Feedback