Is Chanakya a Good Marketer?

You may be wondering what the connection between Chanakya and Marketing is.

Before understanding the connection it is vital to know about Chanakya (350 – 283 B.C.) who is also known as Vishnugupta alias Kautilya. He is renowned as a greatest figure of wisdom and knowledge in the Indian history and masterful political strategist who knew how to put his own people in the opposite camp and spy on the enemy without his knowledge before destroying him forever. He is also referred to as the Indian Niccolò Machiavelli who is a famous Italian philosopher, statesman and writer. Chanakya was the adviser and Prime Minister of Emperor Chandragupta (reigned c. 321–c. 297), founder of the mighty Mauryan empire of northern India. Strategist Chanakya was instrumental in helping Chandragupta overthrow the powerful kingdom of Nanda at Pataliputra (currently known as Patna), in the Magadha region. Chanakya was a professor at the University of Takshila (currently located in Pakistan) an important ancient centre of learning before he became the prime minister of king Chandragupta and was an expert in vedhas, philosophy, politics, commerce, warfare, economics, etc. His famous works include Chanakya Neeti, Arthashastra and Neetishastra.


“I will destroy you”

Chanakya left his position as professor of Takshila and moved to the Indian political arena as he felt that the Indian kingdoms need to be strengthen politically as well as economically to fight against the foreign invasions which were expected to happen. He chose the kingdom of Patliputra which was ruled by king Nanda. But Chanakya’s blunt approach didn’t please the king and he put Chanakya out of his court. So, he erupted like a volcano against the king, and said, “Arrogance in you has eroded the respect which I had for you. You have removed me from my rightful place and I will destroy you!”

The humiliated Chanakya while walking in the streets of Patliputra met a youth who was worried and disgusted about his life. He was Chandragupta, who was also striving to take revenge from king Nanda as the king had killed all his brothers and father who were also heirs of the Patliputra kingdom.

The wounded Chanakya was pleased with the youngster who had also been wounded by King Nanda and vowed to destroy the Nandas and get Chandragupta to his rightful place as a king of Patliputra. At last both of them destroyed the kingdom of Nandas and created a new Mauryan empire. The kingdom was ruled by Chanakya through the King Chandragupta. The rustic boy Chandragupta was crafted and turned to matured military commander by Chanakya. The source of strength for Chandragupta and his army was the power of mind and the towering personality of Chanakya. In the war of independence for northern India, Chandragupta was the physical instrument, while its thinking brain was Chanakya.

It is said that Chanakya use to add poison to Chandragupta’s food in order to make the king immune to poison in case enemies added poison to his food. Unknowingly Chandragupta shared his food with his wife who was on her ninth month of pregnancy.  In order to save the heir to the throne, Chānakya cuts the dead queen’s belly and extracted the baby who was later known as the great emperor of Mauryan, King Ashoka.

The warfare strategies made by Chanakya helped Chandragupta conquer all the lands up to Iran in the Northwest and down to the boundaries of Karnataka state in South India. Though Chanakya faced dual obstacles of the Nandas and Alexander’s troops out of the way, his warfare strategies, tactics and tricks united the greater portion of the Indian sub-continent under the Mauryan Empire.


Marketing as Warfare

Now it is time to talk about marketing. Specifically marketing at this moment is neither production or product or sales oriented, nor customer oriented. It is competitor oriented. Our moves in the market need to be strategic the same as in warfare.

Being customer oriented is no longer an added advantage for an organization to survive in the competitive market place. Being customer oriented and trying to satisfy customers would not be useful if a dozen of other businesses are also doing the same. It is only spending millions for nothing. This is what is happening to many organizations currently and they are unable to achieve their targets as the competition is becoming more and more powerful.  An organization which was a part of a supply chain only faced the competition from similar type of businesses in those days but now the same organization needs to compete with another organization which is in the same supply chain itself. This brings the marketers to the battle field and forces them to formulate strategies to overwhelm the competitors. It is becoming vital to outperform the competitors and do what they are not doing or attack them and make them not to do what we do. That is why marketing is a warfare these days.

The ever known warfare strategy used by Chanakya in the battle with Nandas is attacking the enemy by not his core area but from other areas than the core.  Chanakya initially employed several strategies focusing to attack the core of the city which was strengthened well by Nandas. This strategy failed and made Chanakya think further. In the meantime he came across a conversation between a child and a mother. The mother was scolding her child for burning himself by eating from the middle of a food item which is hotter rather eating the cooler edges first. The king maker realized his initial error and started to attack Nandas not from the heart of the city but from the edges of their territory. He also realized attacking them from the edges and moving forward is not useful unless the conquered villages surrounding the heart of the city are stationed by troops so that the enemies can’t rise again and attack them back. This is how he destroyed a powerful kingdom of Nandas.

The same philosophy employed by him in war is suitable for the current marketing phenomena as well. There is another lesson from Chanakya’s life which is suitable for the contemporary marketers. When Chanakya was thrown out of Nanda’s court, he was walking in the Patlipura streets with the thought to destroy the kingdom of Nandas’. His hurried walk with anger made him to stumble upon a stump of grass. Chanakya who has his own approach to doing things and who never lets anger overwhelm him sat on the ground and started to remove the grass from the roots itself, so that the grass would never grow again. This action of Chanakya which clearly showed determination impressed a youth to approach him and tell him his problems for whom Chanakya later created a kingdom.

Following are some of Chanakya’s philosophies from the book “Chanakya Neethi” though they are telling about war strategies and life they are apt for the marketing warfare also:

  • “A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first.”
  • “Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous.”
  • “The biggest guru-mantra is: Never share your secrets with anybody. It will destroy you.”
  • “There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interests. This is a bitter truth.”
  • “Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions – Why am I doing it, What the results might be and Will I be successful. Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead.”
  • “As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it.”
  • “The world’s biggest power is the youth and beauty of a woman.”
  • “Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth.”
  • “Once you start working on something, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t abandon it. People who work sincerely are the happiest.”
  • “Never make friends with people who are above or below you in status. Such friendships will never give you any happiness.”
  • “Treat your kid like a darling for the first five years. For the next five years, scold them. By the time they turn sixteen, treat them like a friend. Your grown up children are your best friends.”

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