In today’s work environment, the application of principles from Chanakya’s Arthashastra may be just what you are looking for. This is the very reason management consultant Radhakrishnan Pillai decided to write Corporate Chanakya, a book where he picks up teachings from the legendary political thinker and describes how to apply them in the contemporary workplace setting. The book deals with everything—from how to prepare for meetings to how to deal with your boss. And, most relevant in the post-slowdown climate, how to deal with losing your job. Edited excerpts from a phone interview:
What led you to write this book?
Everybody knows Chanakya as a political thinker and even as a common man I have understood his principles. In 2004, I took up a course at the Chinmaya International Foundation in Kerala, where I learnt nearly 6,000 sutras. Once I finished, my friends told me that it would be a good idea for me to shed some light on his work. I started to give lectures and soon evolved into a management consultant. During these training sessions, I used to keep notes of ideas and systematically keep writing them down. In a period of four and a half years, the book took shape.
Corporate Chanakya—Successful Management the Chanakya Way: Jaico Publishing House, 340 pages, Rs275.
How did Chanakya’s ‘Arthashastra’ influence your writing?
Chanakya has been one of the most prominent thinkers in the country and his influence has lasted over 2,500 years. We have, of course, seen his work through the Arthashastra, but never put his thoughts into application.
As I began to write, I realized that this book is actually a solution for our modern-day management problems. I have studied management too and been a part of (the) Chinmaya Mission since childhood. I asked myself, why are we running our country by Western methods of management? Western principles are being adapted into the Indian management system. Why should we not use that which is our own, since we are an evolved nation?
Were there any specific incidents that prompted you to write the book?
An incident that specifically prompted me was when I started my spiritual tourism company, Atma Darshan. My friend, Venkat Iyer, joined my business. In my study of Arthashastra, I read that involving your good friend or partner with your business can be profitable. My turnover was Rs20 lakh. Within a year of him joining, the turnover rose to Rs2 crore.
How does a person become a ‘Corporate Chanakya’?
My guru, Dr Gangadharan Nayar, used to tell me that Chanakya is already there in the Indian genes and we need to just bring him out. This whole theory suddenly gets a direction while working in a corporate world. You start thinking and running the organization in the Chanakya way.
In your book you say bosses too are answerable. Who are they answerable to?
In a business house or an enterprise, there is always a boss. Most employees complain in the manner that “if I were the boss, I would have done this differently”. The head of the company may be responsible to the chairman and the chairman, to the laws of the country or society. Even in the Arthashastra, dharma is the rule. The boss is answerable to higher authorities and their own ethical questions. In running a business, the heads of companies must first clear ethical problems.