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Political Strategy a la Corporate Strategy

The past few days witnessed one of the most riveting upheavals in the Indian Politics in one of the most politically volatile states of the country, the land of Chanakya, the state of Bihar. About more than 18 months back, a coalition of the unwilling came together just to stop the Juggernaut in it’s tracks in Bihar and it was hugely successful. It was a momentous achievement for the ruling party at that time in Bihar to have recognized and responded to the threat posed by the electoral machine of the party at center.

Joint venture or a merger of companies is what a coalition of political parties comes closest to in the business world.

As in the corporate world wherein the JVs and mergers fail, the political landscape in our country is also not bereft of instances of failed marriages. In the highly competitive world of Indian politics, there has always been a major party to which the minor parties gravitate and the battle is played out.

But the recent past has seen rise of a party with big ambitions and deep pockets, which is threatening to change the rules of the game, in the process creating unsurmountable entry barriers for the new players (like the AAP) and driving out competition, wherever it enters.

The party finds itself uniquely positioned to enjoy the fruits of monopoly in the process and the masses seem to be in love with it’s offerings. This is not as if the said party had everything ready on the platter, rather on it’s way up, it cobbled up alliances and made necessary acquisitions to shore up on the perceived disadvantages, if it had any, in any segment and at times the offerings were also tweaked according to the electorate it was addressing.

The cadre on ground is equivalent of distribution channel in the political world and the timely co-option and capture of prized assets from the competitors’ camp has also benefitted this behemoth in a very big way.

The rise and rise of this party is a classic case for the corporate world.

The state of Bihar for a brief period seemed to be providing a matchup to the marauding beast on the back of a coalition. Eighteen months later, we find the much trumped up counter narrative in disarray. It would be very interesting and enlightening to delve into and find out reasons behind this short lived bonhomie. In the corporate world, one of major reasons for failure is said to be “Poor or Unclear” leaders. Here, in this case too, what was very evident that the JV of the two regional parties was very opportunistic, and was not borne out of shared beliefs or value system.

The prime mover driving the two regional satraps coming together was very different, it was sustenance for one and comeback for another.Somewhere, these two regional parties, erstwhile competitors, coming together were making up for their lacking competencies and the resulting synergy did result in immediate electoral benefits but couldn’t stand the test of time. Other very important aspect behind failure of these sort of mismatches is generally the inability to integrate people and organizational culture.

Organizational culture of a company normally flows from the top due to presence of charismatic leaders and it is more so applicable in case of political parties.

We are a country of hero-worshippers and personality cult is one such thing which is all pervasive be it politics, corporate world or sports. Leaders define followers and if the men at the top don’t seem to be on the same page, the separation is a foregone conclusion and this is precisely what happened in the eastern state.

While we discussed how the JV failed and it imploded, it is also important to look into the external factors, which might have had a contribution to it. Companies keep making strategic re-alignments in view of the ever changing business scenario. This sometimes also needs one to let go of existing arrangement and build new tie ups. There are certain markets wherein even the Amazons and Ubers fail to breach and they are bound to move towards détente to reduce the cost of product development and market acquisition. There are others wherein hostile takeover is the only way to make inroads and there are times when the time is just right to strike the proverbial hot iron. In the current case, the later analogy explains much of the event which unfolded. The man in-charge was fast losing his brand equity owing to the push and pull of the coalition dharma or he made it seem so in the face of overtures by the more attractive partner.

Whatever may be the case, the JV couldn’t muster up a shared value proposition during this period and the cracks became too overbearing and a slight nudge from the suitor with all the wherewithal in the current circumstances proved to the last straw on the camel’s back.

In the end, it’s essential to assess the longevity of this renewed partnership between the two parties and the position of strength and weakness from where the tie up has been made. The beleaguered man in charge of the state got the much needed equity infusion, helping him stay afloat.

It is very important to note here that the situation of this party was very much like a start up bleeding cash and because of the infrastructure it had created, it was still valuable for a much bigger player in it’s larger scheme of things.

It’s anybody’s guess that companies in such cases are most of the time in their decline stage and ready to be swamped by a whopper.

PS: The author is politically agnostic and this is just an attempt to understand the similarities between the dynamics of corporate and the political world.

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This entry was posted on July 31, 2017 by in Uncategorized.

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