Chanakya Niti And Marketing Strategies

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 10553 , Published on 01 October 2012
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Call him Chanakya, call him Kautilya or call him Vishnu Gupta he’ll continue to be the well known legendary teacher and strategist that we’ve heard a lot about. What management teaches us today with flashy power point presentations and use of all cool sounding terminology was taught in a more pragmatic way by Chanakya. His contribution to economics in form of Arthshastra, to politics in form of Nitishastra is commendable and worth mentioning in every institute teaching economics or political science, at least in India. He was one of the earliest known political thinker, strategist and king-maker who very well had the vision of unifying India under a strong leader, against mighty foreign conqueror such as Alexander.


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Here I’m trying to relate the sutras, given by him in his works, to the prevailing markets and business environment. So we have following quotes which are quite self-explanatory and amazing in the sense that the ideals belong to a different period but are still very well applicable.

“Learn from the mistakes of others…you can’t live long enough to make it all yourselves!”

There are others out there to make mistakes for you to learn from and learn from your mistakes as well. Wrong positioning as done by Nirma, by launching beauty soap, was a lesson for many brands. So before implementing any marketing strategy apart from market research, marketing manager must look into similar recent attempts made by other companies and learn from their mistakes.

“A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and Honest people are screwed first”

We all know that brands going for honesty as there marketing strategy don’t usually succeed in whatever they plan to do, whereas not so honest brands always get there work done, the way they want it.  Fraud and dishonesty is not the right way to market a product but complete honesty is also not advisable e.g. Famous Pan Masala brand, while advertising don’t really describe the contents of the product and its side-effects but at the same time they can’t be blamed for misleading people as they have a statutory warning printed on the packets. So if a brand or company goes all honest and straight forward about the ill-effects or the disadvantages of a product it might just lead the customer even further away from the product rather than appreciating the honesty of the marketer.

“Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous”

A newcomer, a new entrant to the market is like a toothless snake at first. It has no market share, no knowledge about the market and enough danger in form of competition. In such a case, this toothless snake should act venomous even if not poisonous lest it will be crushed to death by the competitors. It should try hard to build the market share and brand name without seeming too desperate for it but at the same time knowing its capabilities. Its marketing strategy should be differentiated and should stand out if the product can’t do so.

“The biggest Guru-Mantra is: Never share your secrets with anybody. It will destroy you!”

The biggest threat to a business is posed by its competitors. Tough competition has lead many companies to take serious actions to safeguard there interest in many forms. Trademarks, Patents and copyrights are the results of these actions and are the perfect example for the given Chanakya sutra. Monetising the innovations and new ideas today is very much needed to survive. Save the secret of what different you have from others and you will able to reap the benefit for a longer period.

“As soon as the fear approaches near, attack it and destroy it”

Fear for a company could be either losing market share or losing manpower. Both these fears should be faced heads up. If company fears loss of market share to a competitor due to some new market strategy adopted by him, in spite of waiting for the right time, it should pounce upon it using a counter strategy to fail the initial effects of the competitor’s efforts itself. Waiting has become a synonym for losing in the highly competitive and demanding market these days.

“Even from poison extract nectar, wash and take back gold if it has fallen in filth, receive highest knowledge from a low born person”

Nothing is too small or too big for an unpredictable market like India. Rural areas can affect the demand schedule of a product as much as the urban sector. Thus every sector and area should be studied efficiently without discriminating on basis of self made perceptions (obviously not for luxury products but yes for FMCG’s and other such low and medium priced products). Every market space is full of knowledge that can be acquired by the firms to develop and grow their business. Every age group, demography, gender, income group etc contributes in a much differentiated manner to the businesses of various firms and hence should be regarded equally important without any prejudices and perceptual discriminations.

"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."

This is concerned with Market research, Planning and strategising phase of marketing, which we all are aware, how important it is for the business. Without appropriate planning no business can succeed, it is not an expense it’s an investment for a business to survive in the long run, which was better understood by this strategist 3000 years ago

“The world’s biggest power is youth and the beauty of a woman”

Well marketers these days do understand this. We can see companies concentrating their marketing efforts more around these two dominating forces of the market. Companies are coming up with products especially made for women e.g. Calcium Sandoz for women, Horlicks for women etc. Then there are advertisements especially made to catch attention of the youth e.g. Thumps Up’s “Aaj Kuch Toofani Karte Hai”, Airtel’s “Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai”, Tata Tea “Jago Re” Hero Honda’s “Karlo Duniya Muthi Mein”etc. Business houses these days very well know the importance of these two demand schedule driving forces of the market and thus are concentrating on the fulfillment of their own desires by satisfying needs of the young and the beautiful.

These are just the most famous and well known sutras of Chanakya, concerning the marketing aspect of businesses. There are many more that can be interpreted in context with the business applicability today and can be derived useful insight from. Chanakya speaks of three types of success – success by counsel, by might, and by energy. While the first two are respectively dependent on advisors and authority, the third is about will power, enthusiasm and passion. That is an essential quality in a marketing manager. Understanding the needs of the market, remembering old clients while making new ones, and solving the problem immediately that is what marketing is all about and that was what Chanakya defined as the duty of a king.

So a marketer can be King of the market if he possesses qualities like desire to learn, effective listening ability, ability to reflect, ability to reject false views, and intent on truth rather than the person. It is quite amazing that how the works of a teacher belonging to the 4th century are applicable in the 21st century. Also it’s disappointing how little we know of his works and regard less importance to it in today’s world. We rely on foreign authors, speakers and management professionals without realizing that this knowledge originated from our own land. Just what is needed is awareness about the applicability of these scriptures which are far more than just sacred and a little time to understand and apply these teachings to the current scenario to derive benefit from what we’ve inherited from our forefathers.

This article has been authored by Twinkle Bakshii from Symbiosis Institute Of Management (SIMS).



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