Radhakrishnan Pillai’s Corporate Chanakya is about building businesses based on ancient wisdom

With the recent launch of its Tamil version, Corporate Chanakya, a book by Radhakrishnan Pillai that recasts the principles of statecraft laid down in Chanakya’s Arthashastra as management tools, has been translated into 10 Indian languages. The Jaico-published management book, first written in English, is also available in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Assamese, Oriya, Bengali, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada.

The work has found an easy resonance with Indian readers because of their familiarity with Chanakya and his political treatise. However, exceeding expectations, the book has also generated interest in academic circles outside the country. Pillai names Harvard, MIT, Oxford and the Singapore Institute of Management where it has been used as a resource material. As Pillai serves on the faculty on both the Defence Services Staff College and the National Defence College, the book has had an impact on the leadership training being provided to the Indian armed forces.

Pillai explains the book’s ability to impart leadership skills has given it an appeal beyond business schools and the corporate world. Out of the 6000 sutras in Arthashastra, he has picked around 225 that are relevant to the subjects he seeks to address. The book consists of 175 short chapters.

“It presents Chanakya’s teachings through the prism of my personal experiences,” states Pillai, who serves as the founder-director of the Chanakya Institute of Public Leadership under the Department of Philosophy at the Mumbai University. At an early age, Pillai was gripped by a conviction that Arthashatra has much to offer by which one can steer one’s life. Besides a Masters degree in Sanskrit, he did a doctorate on the political masterpiece.

Asked if he was worried about the message of his book getting diluted in the translation, he says, “Even Arthashastra would have suffered dilution because of my book. Certain elements are bound to be lost in the translation, but Jaico created strict parameters of quality check to ensure that it did not,” says the 37-year-old author.

A film — Chanakya Speaks — has also been made on the book. Due for release anytime, it traces the journey of a young executive from ignorance to mastery of management skills. Playing his true self, Pillai expounds what is called Chanakya’s Seven Pillars of Business. A few giants of Indian industry also figure in the film.

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