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You Need Elephants to Catch Elephants

This article explores the relevance and application of Principles and Strategies discussed in the 3rd Century BC treatise, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, in Today’s Corporate World.

                     “The objective of any king (leader) or state (organization) is to create, expand, protect and enjoy wealth”

The reason for a CEO to be in the chair is very clearly defined by Kautilya in the very beginning itself. It is to create wealth for all its stakeholders, his employees and for himself to enjoy.

He should not be satisfied with what he has got. He should keep thinking continuously how to expand his territories and reach new markets.

              “Just as elephants are needed to catch elephants, so does one need wealth to capture more wealth” (9.4.27)

This is an old but very important aspect of wealth creation. “Paisa lagaye bina Paisa nahin aata”. There is no business that can create wealth without investment. Kautilya here gives the example of a hunter who catches elephants.

Elephants always move around in groups. To catch an elephant a hunter needs to use another elephant. Only then the one which is targeted gets attracted.

Having produced wealth the king should know how to protect it. Take the example of a vessel with a hole at the bottom. We may keep pouring more and more water into it. However nothing will stay unless it is protected from unknown leaks.

How does he do that?

              “He (leader) should constantly hold an inspection of their works, men being inconstant in their minds” (2.9.2-3)

The employees are primarily concerned with salaries. An attitude of complacency can crop up if a regular and vigilant check is not kept on them. The reason is quite obvious. The human mind is very unpredictable. No organization can reach its goal without a continuous push and pull system.

      “All state activities depend first on the Treasury. Therefore, a king (leader) shall devote the best attention to it” (2.8.1-2)

In book one of the Arthashastra titled ‘The topic of training’; the teacher proposes a daily time table for the king. He says that during the first part of the day, he should check the accounts of income and expenditure of the sate. It is only after doing this, he is adviced to look into the affairs of the citizens.

Do not get carried away by the regular problems faced by your subordinates once you enter your office. Relax! Just take control over the financial status by monitoring the financial reports first.

Contributed by - Radhakrishnan Pillai

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