Knowing how much money to ask

What Chanakya suggested was to first—even before you ask for any money—make a deep study of the person in front.

All of us, at one time or the other, face the dilemma of not knowing what remuneration to ask for our work. Whether it’s the salary at a new job, funding for a business, charging a client for services, or even asking for donations for a noble cause, we always get stumped by the question: How much to ask?

Chanakya had a solution to this problem as well.

He said: “He should ask money of the rich according to their wealth, or according to benefits (conferred on them), or whatever they may offer of their own will.” (5.2.35)

So, what Chanakya suggested was to first—even before you ask for any money—make a deep study of the person in front. People who master this art can easily succeed in any venture.

Let us split the above verse to understand it better:

According to their wealth

Now, this is very subjective. The wealthy differ from one place to another. For instance, the richest man in a village is just another man in a big city while your rich neighbour would be just another man according to global standards.

Therefore, Chanakya suggested that one should ask for money from the rich as per their wealth.

According to benefits conferred

A request along these lines is generally responded to positively. That’s because you ask for remuneration in line with the favour you did to someone, or for the benefit gained by your association, or for just a recommendation or advice you had given. You can ask in kind or in cash.

The perfect illustration of this would be what a client of mine once did when his doctor conducted an operation for free, refusing to take any money for it.

My client calculated the amount he would have spent and then bought the good doctor a gift of the same value as a small token of his appreciation and which the doctor could not refuse.

As per will

Now there are certain situations where you cannot do any valuation. If you ask for more, you may get refused.

If you ask less, the opportunity is gone. In such a case, let the person decide as per his will. You may actually end up getting more than expected.

I once heard of a hotel which practises the policy of: “Eat as much as you can, pay as much as you will.”

Surprisingly, customers there become so happy with the service that the hotel makes more money than what he would have had he stuck to the prices on the menu card!

Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai is an Indian management thinker, author, and Founder of Atma Darshan and Chanakya Aanvikshiki. Dr Pillai has extensively researched Kautilya’s Arthashastra, the 3rd century BC treatise and incorporated it into modern management.




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