Profound wisdom
Reviewed by D. S. Cheema

Corporate Chanakya
By Radhakrishnan Pillai.

Jaico. Pages 317. Rs 275.

Corporate ChanakyaTODAY, developed and successful countries all over the world have created their own unique management styles in consonance with their culture and heritage and have reaped great benefits. A good example of this is Japan’s spectacular success through ‘Japanising’ the management to fit in the framework of their cultural ethos. The world has recognised the fact that every sector of Japanese economy has shown tremendous strength and grown considerably over the years. Obviously, analysis, synthesis and adaptation of their unique management practices by such countries was far easier as compared to the others who started copying them in their eagerness to get similar benefits.

India has a unique culture, and if we can develop management policies and practices which are compatible with our perceptions, attitude and work ethos, we can easily overcome the hurdles to our intended growth. It is a strange dichotomy that while we have been depending heavily on the Western management concepts, many Western scholars are now looking at the ancient Indian experiences of management.

Radhakrishnan Pillai’s book is based on the presumption that every modern management theory and practice has already been explored thousands of years ago in the classic Arthashastra by Kautilya or Vishnugupta or Chanakya, the well-known kingmaker who lived in the 3rd century BC. Pillai, a product of Chinmaya Mission, is the Director of SPM group of companies and has totally devoted himself to the cause of promotion and application of Indian management ideas. He has been organising seminars, conferences and training programmes in corporate houses to spread the message of Chanakya’s wisdom as related to management of enterprises.

The author claims to have shared his ideas with "millions of people from the corporate world, all across the globe". This well-researched book is divided into three parts: Leadership, Management and Training. It has 175 capsule chapters, each attempting to synthesise Chanakya’s wisdom with modern management theories and practises. The book covers a large number of areas, though all of which may not be necessarily called "managerial" in the strictest sense, certainly they represent fundamental "skills of the manager".

It is well-known that effective and efficient management of the three basic resources—human, material and time—is vital for the achievement of objectives in any organisation. That is why most of the people think that studying management is a wise investment of time and effort.

The concept of management was always there since the beginning of human history. Therefore, learning from the past greats can add to the quality of any profession, including the field of management. Judicial use of ancient wisdom can help one to generate a large number of good ideas to find solutions to different type of problems. One way of promoting the ideas of almost universally recognised wisdom of the past is to understand such ideas in the context in which they were applied then and how these can be modified to suit the present needs. Pillai has been successful in meeting that goal to a large extent. He seems to have divided the book into three sections and small chapters to fit in as many of Kautilya’s sutras or verses related to modern management as possible. Still, one finds it difficult to draw a sensible line between the three parts. However, the author’s own prescriptions in each of the pages makes the book very useful for teachers and students of management, and managers in the corporate world.

The book reinforces the idea that the ancient Indian wisdom, if appropriately integrated with modern management concepts, could result in a uniquely "Indian management" style that others would find irresistible. This could play a significant part in the development and growth of India as a global power to reckon with.