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34. Chanakya - The Master Strategist and Lessons for Corporate World

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Who was Chanakya ?

The Legend

Chanakya is regarded as a great thinker and diplomat in India. Many Indian nationalists regard him as one of the earliest people who envisioned a united India spanning the entire subcontinent

Chanakya was an ancient Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor. He is traditionally identified as Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthashastra, a text dated to roughly between the 2nd century BCE and the 3rd century CE. As such, he is considered the pioneer of the field of political science and economics in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta Empire and not rediscovered until the early twentieth century.

Chanakya assisted the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta in his rise to power. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both emperors Chandragupta and his son Bindusara.

1) History

According to the Buddhist legend, the Nanda kings who preceded Chandragupta were robbers-turned-rulers. Chanakya was a Brahmin from Takkāsila (Takshashila). He was well-versed in three Vedas and politics. He had canine teeth, which were believed to be a mark of royalty. His mother feared that he would neglect her after becoming a king. To pacify her, Chanakya broke his teeth.

Chanakya had an ugly appearance, accentuated by his broken teeth and crooked feet. One day, the king Dhana Nanda organized an alms-giving ceremony for Brahmins. Chanakya went to Pupphapura (Pushpapura) to attend this ceremony. Disgusted by his ugly appearance, the king ordered him to be thrown out of the assembly. Chanakya then broke his sacred thread in anger, and cursed the king. The king ordered his arrest, but Chanakya escaped in the disguise of an Ājīvika. He befriended Dhananada's son Pabbata, and instigated him to seize the throne. With help of a signet ring given by the prince, Chanakya fled the palace through a secret door.

Pic : Chandragupta Maurya

Chanakya then escaped to the Vinjha forest. There, he made 800 million gold coins (kahapanas) using a secret technique that allowed him to turn 1 coin into 8 coins. After hiding this money, he started searching for a person worthy of replacing Dhana Nanda. One day, he saw a group of children playing: the young Chandragupta (called Chandagutta in Mahavamsa) played the role of a king, while other boys pretended to be vassals, ministers, or robbers. The "robbers" were brought before

Chandragupta, who ordered their limbs to be cut off, but then miraculously re-attached them.

Chandragupta had been born in a royal family, but was brought up by a hunter after his father was killed by an usurper, and the devatas caused his mother to abandon him. Astonished by his miraculous powers, Chanakya paid 1000 gold coins to his foster-father, and took him away promising to teach him a trade.

Chanakya now had two potential successors to Dhana Nanda: Pabbata and Chandragupta. He gave each of them an amulet to be worn around the neck with a woolen thread. One day, he decided to test them. While Chandragupta was asleep, he asked Pabbata to remove Chandragupta's woolen thread without breaking it and without waking up Chandragupta. Pabbata failed to accomplish this task. Some time later, when Pabbata was sleeping, Chanakya challenged Chandragupta to complete the same task. Chandragupta retrieved the woolen thread by cutting off Pabbata's head. For the next 7 years, Chanakya trained Chandragupta for royal duties. When Chandragupta became an adult, Chanakya dug up his hidden treasure of gold coins, and assembled an army.

After early defeats, They assembled a new army, and started conquering the border villages. Gradually, they advanced to the kingdom's capital Pataliputra (Pāṭaliputta inMahavamsa), where they killed the king Dhana Nanda. Chanakya ordered a fisherman to find the place where Dhana Nanda had hidden his treasure. As soon as the fishermen informed Chanakya about its location, Chanakya had him killed. Chanakya then anointed Chandragupta as the new king, and tasked a man named Paṇiyatappa with eliminating rebels and robbers from the kingdom.

2) Chanakya Niti ( Ethics of Chanakya ) : Some of the Pearls of his lessons.

1. " A wise man should not reveal his loss of wealth, the vexation of his mind, the misconduct of his own wife, base words spoken by others, and disgrace that has befallen him."

2. " He who gives up shyness in monetary dealings, in acquiring knowledge, in eating and in business, becomes happy."

3." One should feel satisfied with the following three things; his own wife, food given by Providence and wealth acquired by honest effort; but one should never feel satisfied with the following three; study, chanting the holy names of the Lord (japa) and charity."

4. " Keep one thousand cubits away from an elephant, a hundred from a horse, ten from a horned beast, but keep away from the wicked by leaving the country. "

5. " Conciliate a strong man by submission, a wicked man by opposition, and the one whose power is equal to yours by politeness or force " - Strategic Alliances.

6. " The power of a king lies in his mighty arms; that of a wise man ( brahmana ) in his spiritual knowledge; and that of a woman in her beauty youth and sweet words. "

7. " Do not be very upright in your dealings for you would see by going to the forest that straight trees are cut down while crooked ones are left standing." -Maneuvering

8. " We should always speak what would please the man of whom we expect a favour, like the hunter who sings sweetly when he desires to shoot a deer. "

9. " We should always deal cautiously with fire, water, women, foolish people, serpents, and members of a royal family; for they may, when the occasion presents itself, at once bring about our death."

10. " One single object (a woman) appears in three different ways: to the man who practices austerity it appears as a corpse, to the sensual it appears as a woman, and to the dogs as a lump of flesh. ".

12. " A wise man should not divulge the formula of a medicine which he has well prepared; an act of charity which he has performed; domestic conflicts; private affairs with his wife; poorly prepared food he may have been offered; or slang he may have heard. "

3) Lessons for Corporate World

Lessons from Chanakya’s Arthashastra

The ‘Arthashastra’ one of the finest works of Chanakya, who was also known as Kautilya and Vishnu Gupta. His teachings are applicable to modern management principles.

Chanakya believes that “A man is great by deeds, not by birth.” This one quote is enough to define the leadership qualities.

Top Five Leadership lessons from Chanakya

1 . Hardwork and Sincerity

“People who work sincerely are the happiest”.

According to Chanakya, There is no replacement for Hardwork or sincerity. If anyone follows shortcuts, it may yeild results in shorttem, One will be exposed in lonterm.

One will remain as who he is not with hallow personality and difficult to make any meaningful and informed decisions in Crucial situations.

Delhi Metro's E.Sasidharan is the Epitome of this quote.

2. Effective Communication.

“When in the court, he shall never cause his petitioners to wait at the door, for when a king makes himself inaccessible to his people and entrusts his work to his immediate officers, he may be sure to engender confusion in business, and to cause thereby public disaffection, and himself a prey to his enemies.”

Its Outmost important that, prompt decisions are to be taken timely and senior Corporate Leaders should be accessable down the line people in assessment of the situation and act promptly and to be communicated to all concerned.

There should not be any confusion , who should do what and there should be proper

" Chain of Command " in Decision making and Effective Communication.

3. Fear of Failure

He says, “Once you start a working on something, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t abandon it.”

A leader , should always take the risks againt the probability of failure.

Recently, Jeff Bezos of Amazon commented :

"Failure comes part and parcel with invention,"

"It's not optional. We believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right." Three years later, he added, "Amazon is the best place in the world to fail."

So, Failure is part and parcel of Corporate life.

Regarding fear, Chanakya writes “As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it”.

4. No Procastination in Decision Making

“All urgent calls he shall hear at once, but never put off; for when postponed, they will prove too hard or impossible to accomplish”.

Once, an Business situation posed to the Leader, he can take the advices from the Experts, he must take decisions promptly and quickly.

If it procastinated, as says, Once Time lost and Opportunity too lost forver.

Nokia did not adopt to New Operating System of Android in time , as a result lost the Market Leadership to competitors.

5. Keeps Your Subjects and Employess happy

Chanakya writes “In the happiness of his subjects lies his happiness; in their welfare, his welfare; whatever pleases himself, he shall not consider as good, but whatever pleases his subjects he shall consider as good.”

Its all about Emotional Intelliegence, Being Compassionate and Empathetic to your Employees always yeild good results. They will remain associate with the company in long run and will be happy to be part and parcel of company's success and put outmost efforts.

HCL Technologies gone ahead with a Slogan " employees first, customers second"

A Leader should imbibe and follow these lessons to be successful in the Corporate World.


Chanakya is the One of the Outstanding Master Strategist as he could elevate an ordinary boy ( with special skills ) as a Emperor of Indian Subcontinent.

He is even considered as a Indian Machiavelli and one can feel and adopt their thoughts in the below presentation.

Chanakya Niti offers a wide range of Ideas and Thoughts , how to handle Powerful people, what kind communication should flow while closing the deals, how to Maneuver in daily corporate life while dealing with Superiors, Peers and Sub-Ordinates.

Chanakya and his philosophy are timeless, relevant and very powerful and can be adopted in daily life and corporate world as well.

MM Rao


Sources :

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