Friday, February 10, 2006

With due respect to Mr. Porter & Co.

Well, here goes...

It was 2 AM. I was working on my Marketing Research project, when, while Googling (oops, I let the worst secret out) I came across an article which said that some French group of political analysts, having studied the works of Chanakya and Machiavelli, had come to the conclusion that had these two men collided on the battlefield of strategy, Machiavelli would have been "torn to shreds" by the former.

I turned to my room mate and we immediately launched into one of our favorite topics of discussion; the ingeniousness of the ancient Indian wisdom. It so happens that both of us had the book "Jwalamukhi ke Phool", a book on how Chandragupta Maurya came to power under the tutelage of Chanakya, during our course at school. Both of us simply LOVED the book, the tense moments, the intense political struggle and the strategic battles (not always on the battlefield; a lot many were fought orally in palaces and dungeons) that were fought and won.

We also discussed 'Chanakya-Niti'. The translated version of the book is easily available on the Net and moreover, a cheap 25-30 rupee impression is available in most Wheeler book stalls across the major railway stations of this country. I have not had the time or the privilege to go through the book in detail, but one of the interesting snippets I read was the manner in which Chanakya had described how even the prostitutes of a land should divide their time. So-and-so time was for their ablutions, at such-and-such time they were to attend to 'customers' and their hidden agenda would be to gather information for their king, for they formed a small cog in the network of spies that Chanakya would have weaved. Goodness!! Talk about detailed analysis of each and every member of the community.

At the same time, you cannot underestimate either the man's economic or his capabilities as a strategist. Not only is his 'Arthashastra' one of the earliest treatises in economics, but very often we tend to forget that the great Alexander, who was thought to be unconquerable, was stopped from further invading the country by the shrewd Brahmin.

But wait, didn't Alexander return since it was his army that rebelled? Weren't they the ones who had had enough of battles and wanted to return home?

Very true, but according to various sources it was Chandragupta himself who'd spread the word of dissent in Alexander's armies. How did he achieve this? Well, Chanakya had instructed him to get himself recruited in Alexander's army. Reason? Two birds with one stone. One, spread the word of dissent among the war-weary soldiers and generals. Two, learn the Greek fighting style which cannot be duplicated easily by the rest of the kingdoms in India; this would later come in handy while setting up their own empire.

I'm sure there are many knowledgeable individuals who would have done a lot of research on Chanakya and would have read tomes about him. But the fact remains, that for an average B-school student like me, Chanakya remains the one 'strategy guru' that I would like to learn the most from.


Himanshu Jain said...

Disclaimer: This comment applies to second half of the blog only.

Espionage is an old, tried and tested tactics in any battlefield and business is no exception. The ideas to get others' perspective, hidden knowledge and secret information.

And if we have look at the bigger level of using of unfair means in war, The Karna death sequence in Mahabharata is a proof.

Applying the argument to business, they say everything is fair in love and war and this is certainly not love..

Shekhar said...

Himanshu: Completely agree with you. And btw, I had actually discussed portions of the Mahabharat with my roomie too, but left that out because of the already long post. Perhaps, another day, another post...

vaiv said...

Dude , any body have online availability of that book "jwalamukhi ke phool" will love to read it again:)

Shekhar said...

vaiv: Have looked for a soft copy for a long time now but haven't been able to find one. Will definitely get in touch with you if I find one. Cheers!