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Kautilya: The world’s first management guru and strategist

Dr. Sharda Nandram Amsterdam, Sept 2010: Averaging a growth rate of 6% a year since 1991, India has become one of the “hottest” growth stories of the world. Blessed with an educated, entrepreneurial work force, and a population with a median age of 25 years, which drives growth as well as forms a large consumer base, India is touted as the next economic “superpower,” along with China. However these achievements are the result of following a Western model of development. To maintain a lasting competitive advantage and differentiate itself from China, India needs to go back to its core, its authentic roots so that its strategy will not be imitated by others. India needs to go back to its spiritual leaders, philosophers, scientists and visionary leaders to re-examine their teachings and their applications to the modern day, knotty problems of growth and development. Netherlands, on the other hand, a small country of 16 million people and 20 million bicycles, has 48% of its workforce in part-time employment. Though Netherlands is one of the top 10 countries on the scale of global competitiveness, like all the European countries, it is grappling with how to increase wellbeing amidst excess. The teachings of Kautilya, also known as Chanakya and Vishnugupta, have significance for both these countries, India as well as Netherlands, though both are at different points of a growth curve. Kautilya’s work was encapsulated in the book “Kautilya’s Arthashastra; the way of financial management and economic governance” published by the Priyadarshini Academy in 2009. It is now available in Dutch as a joint effort of Praan Solutions, Multilibris and Priyadarshini Academy. Kautilya’s management teachings Kautilya lived from 350-275 BC. A great political strategist, economist, educator and an expert in diplomacy, his teachings needs to be rediscovered even in India. He had a holistic approach for societal problems, education, economics, governance, business and financial management and was the man behind the rise of Chandragupta, the first Mauryan Emperor. With his successful Mandala strategy, Kautilya slowly chipped away at the edges of Nanda’s kingdom, instead of attacking it directly. Nanda was the corrupt yet powerful king of Magadha. Kautilya was able to withstand the challenge of the Greek invaders by building alliances with the small kingdoms. With his time management approach, Kautilya defined a daily routine for the King. He allowed the King ten and half hours as his own time, the rest he needed to spend on his duties towards his subjects. The Mandala strategy, building alliances and time management are all tools that can be useful in governance and management. Furthermore, Kautilya’s view on leadership departs from a holistic view. Though he did not talk about management in the terms of holism, it was built on deeper human values that increase the connection between citizens and their leaders. According to Kautilya, the leader should study four branches of knowledge: philosophy, scriptures, economics and politics because these are the basics for training in spiritual welfare (dharma) and material wealth (artha). In his monumental

which translates to an interest in man’s inner relationship to himself and to his spiritual core. Managers. greed and vanity). Kautilya prescribed specific. these days. which literally means a stick) when officers do not meet their task or if citizens not obey the rules and regulations. Kautilya developed the wealth tests. The East traditionally holds a more microcosmic worldview. the virtue “Arthashastra” he talked about combining both because one was unsustainable without the other. He prescribed punishment for both types of fraud. Therefore one can say that the essence of the Arthashastra is a framework for building wealth. the pleasure test and the fear test. freedom from vices (lust. Self purification and inner cleansing were necessary for the right perspective. The Arthashastra is a manual for practicing politicians. Government officials could enrich themselves either by cheating the government or by exploiting the public. Those who passed all four tests were appointed as ministers. Another element of his teachings is the value based approach that the leader should take. anger. He mentioned values which a leader should possess. long term vision and respect for the advice of elders. these managers are interested in understanding their mind. The essence of leadership lies in the ethical foundations. He warned against excess and inactivity. he would penalize all the players of the 2008 financial crisis. Profit was a must in his scheme of running public enterprises. A Western approach to mindfulness therefore focuses on understanding and optimizing the mind’s functions to help individuals achieve success and happiness. the balance many managers are lacking today. He contemplated the universal application of danda irrespective of the offender’s rank and status. The . An important part of that was coercive authority (danda. Furthermore his focus in leadership was on understanding the outer self and aligning it with the inner consciousness. In the daily routine that he prescribed for the King he allocated time for meditation. The candidate who applied for a position was tempted by different means through secret agents. I believe all these concepts make Kautilya the world’s first management guru. He was aware of financial fraud committed by the government officials. An official who did not generate adequate profits in crown undertakings was punished. attitudes. tested administrative procedures. This concept nowadays can be found in the discussions of corporate social responsibility. Kautilya stressed the importance of learning and acquiring the right skill to be an effective leader. truthfulness. Kautilya’s theory of the recruitment and selection of officials involved tests to judge officials before appointing them. The Western mindset is predominantly macrocosmic. Kautilya was able to integrate the macrocosmic with the microcosmic making his perspective holistic. In essence Kautilya’s leadership principle focused on finding a balance between the inner self and the outer world. governments and CEOs of corporations. are seeking tools to find this balance. He conceived danda to be the surest and the most universal means of ensuring public security as well as the stability of the social order. surroundings and society at large. the financial institutions. promptness. If Kautilya were to be alive today. According to him the civil servants needed to be watched and guided so that they did not misuse their position. behavior. who failed to follow the ethical rules of governance. welfare and wellbeing. Kautilya’s teachings on governance The concept of good governance gets a lot of attention in Western society especially in current times. reliability.

Kautilya’s teachings on education Kautilya’s Arthashastra stressed the importance of education. Data was collected in agriculture but also for marking animals for categorizing. Even after three months there is no new government because of the difficulty in forming a coalition between the liberal and the labor party. deliberate and imbibe the truth. therefore there was veterinary medicine. In need Kautilya formed strategic alliances with “the enemy”. draw inferences. The former government fell because of a rift between the Labour and the Christian Democrats over the deployment of Dutch troops in Afghanistan. Starting with the less important issues or the similarities will have a positive impact on the process of forming a government. therefore there was military training. Learning results in righteousness and wealth. politics and stated it to be the essence of being a King. Relevance of Kautilya to the Dutch society Currently leadership and trust-building are the main issues in the Dutch political arena. Therefore he stated that the lessons of discipline could be imparted to those who had the desire to learn. The last election in June this year did not result in a clear cut decision. . The number of seats together is not enough and they need to find other parties to join in. The average citizen and villager were expected to defend their own hearth and home. capacity to listen attentively. poverty and hatred. the student was urged towards discipline and self-control. Students stayed at residential schools called Gurukuls. The politicians should learn about forming alliances to realize what is good for its citizens. He stated that teaching wrong things was a great crime. Kautilya stated that sciences should be studied and their precepts strictly observed only under the authority of specialist teachers. This should be followed by discussing and negotiating the core of the political programs. discriminate between the important and the unimportant. Kautilya’s teachings would suggest clear leadership with service to the citizens and discipline of the leaders towards efficiency and wealth management. training and learning destroyed unrighteousness. Trading with other countries was profitable. Besides the intellectual learning the Arthashastra stressed moral education and character building as essential for education. Animals were regarded as a part of the same cosmos as humans. Thus it was a combination of intellectual skills and yogic discipline. Therefore there was commercial education. Along with the varied sciences.Arthashastra explains in detail the principle of righteousness in management. Several options have been tried out so far but without success. In his opinion. His Mandala strategy would be helpful in first approaching the edges of the programs of the political parties involved. Not everyone was capable of the type of discipline he valued as important for education. Statistics was one of the main subjects. retain it in memory. Starting with the main differences tends to only enlarge these differences. power to grasp what was taught.

One in Work and Organizational Psychology at the University of Amsterdam and the other in General Economics at the University of Amsterdam. Sharda has published several articles. She has her own consultancy Praan Solutions. She completed her PhD in Social Sciences at the Vrije University of Amsterdam. from Indian origin. Sharda Nandram has worked for universities and research centers conducting applied and academic research for nonprofit and profit organizations. a Think Tank of Indian Diaspora in the Netherlands. was born in Surinam. Sharda is married and has two children. The 0031-641403325 Priyadarshniacademy@gmail. Contact: sharda@praansol. Member of the steering Committee of the European Society of Spirituality and Economics based in Belgium. and is the third generation living abroad. She has been living in the Netherlands for 25 years. She has two masters’ degrees to her credit. Sharda Nandram is Professor Entrepreneurship at the University of Applied Sciences HAN and Associate Professor at Nyenrode Business Universiteit within the Center for Entrepreneurship.About the author Sharda S. Nandram. chapters and books on these topics and she has presented her work at international and national conferences. Besides her professional responsibilities she is Co-chairwomen of GOPIO (Global Organization of Person of Indian Origin).com 2222049315 (Mumbai) . a Dutch resident. Trustee of the Foundation for Critical Choices for India (FCCI).