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Game theory: The art of tackling your competitor

In this 75th article on Chanakya’s treatise Arthashastra, I’d like to talk about one very important stage of conducting business––the ‘Game theory’. All management personnel and economists are familiar with this and use it very often to analyse situations and, especially competition.

Chanakya was a pioneer of the Game theory. In Arthashastra, it is called the Mandala Theory (Circle of Kings). It consists of various multiple permutations and combinations of dealing with the enemy or the Shatru.

In a battle, when face-to-face with the Shatru, Chanakya says, “If near him (enemy), he should strike in his weak point.” (7.2.12)

But how does one strategise and make this move against the enemy (competitor) in today’s corporate world? Here are some tips:

Study the competition

Before attacking, one should always know everything there is to know about the person or the entity that needs to be countered. Remember, war is 99 percent preparation and 1 percent execution. So prepare well before you make your move. Accurate information should be gathered about the competitor, his plans, and objectives.

All said and done, when the time comes to counter your competitor’s moves, do not sit back.


Practice well

Never ever go rushing into the market (or your own office, for that matter) seeking a direct conformation with the BIG guys. Gain experience first by practicing well in your own region and tasks. The bigger the competitor, the more you need to prepare. In fact, it would pay to seek counsel from an experienced person. His advice can turn things for you.

Know the rules of the game

This is the most essential part! The rules of the game are the framework within which you conduct your business or day-to-day affairs. It would be highly rewarding if you understand them well. Think about it–it’s only after you have become well-acquainted with the rules that you can change them.

Just look at how the Indian hockey team was tackled. They had become invincible at the Olympics for years together. Then the competition studied the rules: They understood that Indians were unbeatable on the grass. They changed the rules of the game, and the ‘turf’ it is played on, literally! Since then, even the modern-day ‘Astroturf’, continues to be a struggle for Indians.

All said and done, when the time comes to counter your competitor’s moves, do not sit back. Execute. And during execution, do not strategise. The best performers have always defeated their competitors in a single move! It will work for you too.

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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