What Startups can learn from Mahabharata

After the much acclaimed e-book on the same, we’ve come up with the article version on the same topic



You can get inspiration from anything and everything, being a Hindu, we have Mahabharata, Ramayana and Bhagwad Gita kept in our house and there are recitals quite often.

But my thought was completely different towards it, having sat in my office working on a Product, it stuck me that Mahabharata has all the ingredients I or any startup would need to be successful, so folks this is your All-in-one-guide to get your startup moving, look no further.

For those of you who don’t know what Mahabharata, the legendary Epic is here are some Insights, trivia and facts about it

  • It was a fight between the members of the same family over the throne
    of Hastinapura, the kingdom ruled by an Indo-Aryan clan call the Kuru. The two collateral branches of the family that participate in the struggle are the Kaurva and the Pandva.
  • There are several stories inside the Mahabharata, the battle of Kurukshetra is where we will be focussing since it was the battle for supremacy, where there would be only 1 winner, the richer powerful side or the poor weak side and you can only guess the winner!
  • It contain buffet of ideologies of friendship to kinship, from being loyal to your family (startup) or doing what is right and more
  • It was the second largest Epic after after The Life of King Gesar
  • It is one of the most important Sanskrit epics of ancient India. It consists of over74,000 verses, long prose passages (approximately a 1.8 million words) which make it the second longest epic poem written in the world. It contains the Bhagavad Gita, which is an important text for Hindus.
  • Took place around 5574 BC about 7500+ years Ago
  • Date of Mahabharata War: 16TH OCTOBER 5561 YEAR B.C.
  • It had mind-boggling revelation aboutAstronomy: Existence of Uranus and Neptune
  • Geography: Lands as far as Cambodia (Kamboja), Kazakhistan and/or Scandinavi (Uttarakuru)
  • Mathematics: Number to the range of 10 raised to powers of 16 and -16
  • Descriptions of Weapons that resemble modern day weaponry including Nuclear and/or Chemical Weapons.
  • Complex Military Formations and Strategies.
  • Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Spirituality, Religion, Politics.
  • Learn More about Mahabharata here

Briefs about the Fighting Ends


11 Akshouhini (1 Akshouhini = 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 foot-soldiers (in a ratio of 1:1:3:5)

  • Bhishma
  • Drona
  • Karna
  • Shalya
  • Kripacharya
  • Ashwathama
  • Duriyodhana

Kaurvas were in power for 13 years with Duriyodhana as the benevolent king, not only they had wealth and the power to rule of Hastinapur but also Indraprashtha, the kingdom Pandvas had taken labour to build which had surpassed the Hastina of old in all degrees. Karna has gone on a nation-wide conquering on behalf of Duriyodhana, they were national sovereigns (You can take them as the Big Fishes of your industry)


7 Akshouhini (1 Akshouhini = 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 foot-soldiers (in a ratio of 1:1:3:5)

  • Arjuna
  • Bhima
  • Dhrshtadyuma
  • Abhimanyu
  • Ghatotkach
  • Shikhandi
  • Satyaki

On the other hand the Pandvas were in exile for 13 years, had no kingdom of their own, however, their main strength depended on their friends and relatives(The Pancalas, The Yadavas, The Magadhas and The Chedis.) both in terms of political and financial, I am sure you guys must have guessed it that this is Us the Startup guys.

Results of the war at Kurukshetra

and the Winner is Pandvas, ha? how did this happen? they were the underdogs? weren’t they, weak, depended on other, no kingdom of their own, not even in a position to war, let along the might rich warriors who ruled almost the world.

War lasted in 18 days and only strategy and the will to live and Win separated the Winners from the Losers.

So just how did the Pandvas Win the war?

Here goes the strategy you could apply to your startup and win against all odds in your way.

1. Prepare before hand and turn your weakness in to your Strength

Kauravas has a upper hand which was also a lower hand in the war, Karna went to a country-wide tour to acquire kingdom and their wealth, but it also meant that they had losses in terms of both men and money and also created a few enemies.

Pandavas on the other hand, were in exile and had more time to focus and improve their weaknesses.

  • Arjuna set out on a mission to acquires Divya-astras.
  • Bhima met his brother Hanuman and got a blessing of enhanced strength
  • Yudhishtira acquired teachings from the various wise rishis, and also learnt theGame of Dice from Gandharava Chitrasena, lest he was challenged to yet another dice game. Its said that he had become un-defeatableAs a startup the less you have the better it is, since you don’t have enough money, you learn to save money and do things in the most cost -effective way, since there is a less of expertise on a domain, you spend time learning it yourself so that you could acquire the knowledge and help yourself and the startup grow. I could give you n-number of examples but would just want to quote the greatest mind of all times.In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. – Albert Einstein 

2. Make powerful Allies

Kauravas, had a central control of power system, it was the greatest empire of the time. However, there were not many powerful allies, except from old relations from far off places like Gandhara (Shakuni), Sindhu (Jayadrath) and Kambodia (Camboja – Bhagadutt)

Pandavas had No wealth. No power of their own, but had made powerful allies all over India.

  • Panchala through Marriage with Darupadi.
  • Dwaraka through marriage with Arjuna and Subhadra.
  • Magadha through marriage of Shadeva and Vijaya.
  • Chedi through marriage of Nakula and Karenmayi.
  • Kasi through marriage of Bhima and Balandhara.
  • Kekaya through marriage of Yudhisthira and Devika.
  • Matsya through marriage of Abhimanyu and Uttara.
  • The Rakshasas through marriage of Bhima and Hidimba.
  • The Nagas through marriage of Arjuna and Uloopi.As startup, connection matter, focus on quality over quantity, I believe that every connect is a +1 point to you as a startup and will make you move in the direction of your goal. There will be people you find in your way as you move, you want them to be your friends not strangers, as they are also moving in the same direction and if they succeed before you they can help you reach your goal and vice-versa.If you have more allies, help is just a call/email away 24/7 without any restriction.

3. Share your responsibilities

Kauravas has centralized leadership, one head of the army at a time, who had a supreme authority of 11 akshouhini Army.

Pandavas: It had Distributed leadership, had seven commanders all leaders, in various fields (1 man commanded 1 akshouhini each)

  • Virat (King of Matsya).
  • Drupad (King of Pancala).
  • Sahadeva (King of Magadha).
  • Dhrshtaketu (King of Chedi).
  • Satyaki (Only warrior from Dwaraka).
  • Shikhandi (Prince of Panchala).
  • Dhrshtadhyuma Commander in Chief.
  • Arjuna Supreme Commander.
  • Krishna Arjuna’s charioteer and counselor.Having a team of Rockstars who are self motivated has its perks, use it well, the team that you choose for your startup will definitely have all the ingredients to be a Superstar company one day, the only thing you have to do is, distribute the responsibility wisely according to each person strength and the results will always be greater than the sum of individual efforts.

My model for business is The Beatles: They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people – Steve Jobs 

4. Teamwork succeeds where individual efforts fails

Kaurvas has no team spirit, they all fought their individual war, didn’t know about each other strength and weaknesses, everyone had their own reason for the way and they were all different reason, they didn’t get well with each other, It was like a bees, hornets and mosquitoes put together in a jar.

Pandavas had One team. One Goal.

As men, they all had huge respect for Krishna and Yudhishtira. While as warriors they were in complete awe of Bhima and Arjuna. Most of them were close relatives cousins, brother-in-laws, father-in-laws. More than that they all were part of the decision-making process. It was their “common” war.

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. – Anonymous 

5. The right team is made by selecting right individuals, get the right man for the right job and you make great symphony

Kauravas, except Duriyodhana, nobody wanted the way, the other generals had strong ties with the Pandvas

  • Bhishma (grand childern) Wont kill the pandavas. Will kill a thousand soldiers eachday.
  • Drona (students) Wont kill the Pandavas. Will capture them only.
  • Shalya (Nakula-Shadeva’s maternal uncle) : Loved the Pandavas and covertly helped them by humiliating Karna
  • Karna (brother to the Pandavas) : Promised not to kill any of the other Pandavas saveArjuna.
    A team of traitors: Pandavas has a common goal, but also had their individual target, whoever, they were in line with the teams agenda
  • Dhratadyuman : Drona.
  • Shikhandi : Bhishma.
  • Satayaki Bhurisravas.
  • Arjuna Karna.
  • Bhima Duriyodhana and his brothers.
  • Sahadeva Shakuni and his sons.
  • Nakula Karna’s sons.Find something that you love and that will be the last day you will be working.Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle. – Steve JobsThat’s what happend with Pandvas, they would love to defeat the Kaurvas, they passionately wanted to win the war and their individual goals was in align with the Winning of them as a team and see what happened to them, they WON.Have your team do things that they love to do and see the sparks fly. give them the ability to be free and not be the control by you, nurture them and help them grow individually as a person.

6. The best man for the job is not the one with the best capabilities but one with the greatest commitment

Kauravas, also already stated had an emptional attachment with the Pandvas, Looking further on their commitment,

  • Bhishma himself gave away the secret of killing him to the Pandavas. He prolonged the War by killing only inconsequential soldiers. He did not fight a warrior like Shikhandi because of his personal bias.
  • Drona too indirectly gave away his secret, by saying he was invulnerable as long as he held a weapon. Moreover he abandoned weapons as soon as he knew his son haddied.
  • Karna did not kill Yudhistira and Bhima when he got the chance. He gave away his“Kavacha” and “Kundalas” prior to his War. Karna fled innumerous times from theWar when he was hurt. He didn’t save Duhsasana when Bhima was killing him.
  • Shalya kept on insulting Karna while in Battle.Pandavas on the other hand had a commitment at the greatest level
  • Abhimanyu , a 16 year old kid. Ventured beyond enemy lines alone. This was a suicide mission but he still went in and took a great part of the army down with him. It took the combined effort of 7 Maharathis to take him down.
  • Ghatotkach even in death, took with him almost half the army.
  • Yudhishtira, knew he couldn’t face Karna in War, but still went in to set an example.Yudhishtira didn’t hesitate to tell a lie or a twisted truth when faced with the decision of whether to stick to his personal integrity or welfare of the team.
  • Krishna took up arms twice and almost entered the War, in spite of his promise, onlyto be stopped by Arjuna.Commitment doesn’t come with the force or financial benefits but with the will to do something with your whole heart, it is something you want to do to accomplish a mission not against the world, but against yourself.

7. Hire Right Manager who can inspire, take risks and exploit weaknesses of the enemy

Krishna was the Greatest Crisis Manager the world has ever seen.

Yudhishtira, a low-key strategist: On the first day of the War, he played a Master game. Went over to the Enemy side to seek blessings from Elders. In reality he made a covert deal with them, wherein all of them agreed to help him and unfolded the secrets of defeating them.

While returning, he took a calculated risk, He made an offer to all the assembled people to change sides if they wanted to. He knew well of the lack of cohesiveness among the Kauravas. Yuyutsu, son of Dhritharashtra crossed over to the Pandvas. This exposed the weakness of the Kaurvas for all to see.

Lessons learnt:

  • Know your enemies weaknesses and exploit them.
  • Take Calculated risks.
  • Inspire, invigorate, counsel your own team in moments of need.

8. Don’t forget where you come from instead learn from it and take that in your stride

Kauravas, were princes, who were brought up in a luxury (well, an understatement) of the Royal Palaces, matured on romanticized ideals of Power, Fame, Courage and Velour. No experience of ground reality.

Pandavas on the other hand

  • Spent the greater part of their lives in Poverty. Their childhood was spent in the Himalayan foothills among Rishis. One year exile among the poor people of Kuru- Panchala. 12 years of Vanvas and 1 year of Agyatvas.
  • Experienced with the ground reality. Contact with people from various strata of the society. Sannyasis (celebrate monks), Achariya’s (Householders, teachers), poor Brahmanas, lower class Potter.
  • Different races of people. Rakshasas, Gandharavas, Apsaras, Nagas. People from different regions Uttarkuru, Bengal etc.
  • A Sense of Sharing. A sense of Brotherhood.

As a startup you need to know the ground realities, knowledge of different ideologies is a must and sharing across these is the most important virtue.

9. Empower Women, balance the equation

Kauravas has a patrirchal Structure.

Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Dhritharashtra, Vidur, Shakuni, Duryodhana, Karna, Duhsasana. There were No women in the decision making process. Gandhari retreated to the Inner Chambers. Nobody listened to her.

Pandavas has a Matriarchal Structure.

  • Kunti was the authority supreme for the Pandvas.
  • Yudhistira: “Whatever my mother says is Dharma to me”
  • Droupathi was a companion in whatever the Pandvas did. She had a big role in all the decision making. Without her the Pandvas would have most probably reclined to the forests.
  • Even the younger Pandvas : Ghatotkach, Abhimnanyu and Iravan were brought up by their mothers. So the female influence was huge.Women Actually equals Better Half: Any team which does not have women is unbalanced, for the Masculine traits of Aggression and Dominance should be balanced by the Feminine traits of Harmony and Sustenance.All the above were things Pandavas followed and you as a Startup can follow too, to be successful and WIN THE WAR.

Before reading this article you must have thought all of these are against you, but, just how in such a small timeframe the change in the way of thinking can affect you in a positive way, this is just an example.

That’s it folks, I hope you guys like this article, and all the best for your startups, also, would love to know more about it, maybe feature it on The DNetWorks, You can download a PDF copy of What Startups can learn from Mahabharata here

Find more about him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or email me, links are on the right sidebar. Feel free to share the article across social networks and if you want to cite it on your blog, make sure you link back.

The DNetWorks Team