Wednesday, May 7, 2008



- Radhakrishnan ‘Chanakya’ Pillai

(This weekly column will explore the relevance and application of Principles and Strategies of Chanakya as discussed in his 3rd Century BC treatise, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, in Today’s Corporate World)

In the 1970s and 80s, many Indian companies witnessed landmark events. Globalisation had not yet happened. Computers were just being introduced; and mobile phones and the Internet were still ideas. Those were the days when the biggest challenge Indian industries faced were labour problems. Misunderstandings between the various labour unions and the company managements occurred all the time.

Obviously, not all negotiations produced positive results. Many companies succumbed to those tense situations, eventually shutting down with entire industries suffering. Only a few organisations emerged as winners.

A key question often asked then was: Is it possible to have complete co-operation between unions and managements? Well, even the experts weren’t sure of an answer. However, Chanakya had a solution.

He had said:

“And without informing the employer, the union shall not remove anyone or bring in anyone.” (3.14.15)

So, in Chanakya’s time, while a union had to be completely in line with the wishes of the management, they also consulted each other before taking decisions.

So what are the lessons our generation can learn from this?


Today, many management thinkers feel that the ‘days of the union’ are over. This is not true. Only the name and form changes. What is a union? It’s a group of people coming together on a common platform. They unitedly discuss their issues and put proposals to their seniors.

This exists even today. Look at the various committees and groups in any company. As any seasoned corporate official will admit, things flow smoothly only after such problems and issues are sorted out early.


Whichever corporate office or industry we work in, we have to realise that we are not fighting against each other, but against the bigger enemies.

Therefore, it’s important for the top leaders communicate to the whole organisation the company’s objectives and goals. This will help everyone in a company – from the top to the bottom – have a common vision.


It doesn’t end with just informing the workforce once in a blue moon. In any relationship, the strength lies in regular and effective communication. Even though there would be hierarchies and different levels in an organisation, it’s important to meet from time to time and discuss issues and problems.

This becomes the firm’s strength. No outsider is required to solve a problem if people inside the house are completely in tune with each other.

In the end, remember that it’s not about ‘I’ should win, but that ‘we all’ should win through the right methods and for the right purpose.

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