The Art of War - Mumbai Style


Raj Nambiar
Programme Director
The International College (THINC)

If management philosophies were to be employed in the murky world of politics…………

Most of us Mumbaikars woke up to the news of the two senas clashing for what seems to be a trivial issue or simply for want of other important issues. So while the Six principles of good old fashioned raada (Any Mumbaikars dictionary would have Raada- Street fight for non causes using WMD's such as iron rods, used tube lights, soda water bottles & anything that makes noise) were being put into practice most of the bars throughout the city of Mumbai were doing roaring business in anticipation of a call for a bandh & the holiday which came in its wake.

So while the blame game is on with each warring faction or this case warring senas pumping up the rhetoric the author gets down to the metaphysical business of linking Mumbai style politics to management:

1. Spotting Opportunities & leveraging them - If the opportunities to create raada/ call a bandh does not present itself – use creativity & innovation in turning non issues to burning ones wherein most of the Rambhavs (Indian version of Rambo) in & around the city find an avenue to vent. The visual or film that comes to mind is that one of a Volvo Bus burning when Rambhavs were at work on a Sunday –  the Sabbath for most working professionals.

2. Marketing communications –  use every vantage point as a marketing hot spot to highlight your non achievements – as seen through the various hoardings, cable TV releases, ponsored programmes (please note that sponsorship is spelt as ponsorship in Mumbai), rallies, Karyakarta conventions (local unbiased versions of the UN Assembly) et. al. One also gets inputs that hoarding & banner spaces around the city are subsidized if you are a political leader/ party wanting to use vantage spaces which in marketing parlance amounts to getting more bang for your marketing buck.

3. Customer Touch points – maintain well appointed offices (shakas) on land usurped from the city or grabbed at any opportunity that presents itself – the customer touch points can be used at will to maintain contact with the average Mumbaikar – and at times to store WMD's or stoke the fervor of communal/ business or social hatred. The shakas has its parallels in the world of management wherein today's companies are also attempting to reach customers (even the probable ones) by maintaining customer touch points all over.

4. Poaching from the competition – each defection engineered from the opposition camp is a victory & a photoop – so while politicking involves defections in all shapes, sizes, positions, levels, religions the world of business or management is also involved in poaching market shares, new product ideas, talented manpower, bottling plants & whatever may add value from its rivals.

5. Warding off threats – the threats in politicking comes from horse or donkey trading, voter registration, electioneering besides the omnipresent challenge of who organizes the rail roko or the dharna or the blackening of the professor's face first. In the world of business the threats may not be as heavy as the ones in politicking but nevertheless they exist. It takes people & business skills to ward off threats & keeping the competition at bay. The most recent example of the world of politicking & business coming together to turn what could have been a threat into an opportunity is the recent issue with the new improved power bills of a huge business conglomerate which tested the people skills of many a party – but then in the end the politickers & the businesses make strange bed fellows – normally the Mumbaikar would have lost but in this case maybe the municipal elections due next year saved the Mumbaikars wallet from further depression.

6. Negotiation & hard bargaining skills – the two terms listed here normally would be found happening in corporate board rooms all the time what with businesses & its stake holders facing challenges on a day to day business. In the realm of politicking the concept of negotiation & bargaining picks up around elections – most times it stems from the confusion associated with seat sharing, election campaigning by leaders sitting in far flung Delhi.

7. Win win relationships – you work for the organization & the organization will then works for you – once a corporate executive cuts his/her teeth for their organization the organization repays them for their talents, integrity, hard work etc. In the politicking context if you have fought hard for your organization in the bargain picking up fights, bruises & at times bullets the party may choose to reward with a position which can be manipulated & milked using a variety of above the board means listed for transparency at a level of minus 2.0 (for new entrants into the portals of power or positions there is a book available titled "Below the Table by Dr. Red Tape & Dr. Adchan).

8. HR & man management – both in the world of politicking & business the king maker is the one with the fan/ fool following – to a certain degree it rallies around the power to rally people behind you often times at very short notice – ability to transport people at times literally so that the right men are available with the right tools read rods & swords for the right job (to avenge or to seek revenge).

9. Financial Investment Planning – financial resources are scarce in most cases – it takes extreme detailing which could take the form of hedging in order to keep financial risks or shortfalls away. While the corporate world has financial planning wizards aplenty the world of politicking is I suspect short on talent. Don't be surprised if politickers end up hiring on the first day (which is considered to be hunting for the best talent there is) from the top B Schools – after all it requires wizards to manage earnings from myriad sources/ interests.

Well what can one say – let me apologize to the average Mumbaikar for writing with an element of sarcasm whereas everybody else is praising the Mumbaikars never say die spirit.

By R Nambiar
The author is a resident of Mumbai and has lived all his life here in the city of dreams.

Raj Nambiar
Programme Director
The International College (THINC)

Source: E-mail October 14, 2006


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