Management Lessons from Baahubali

There is so much hype and noise around this latest South Indian Telugu Flick – Baahubali that I started taking note of it. I am not a big fan of Telugu movies for the simple fact that I don’t understand the language. Since Baahubali had a IMBD rating of over 9.5, I decided to take a plunge and watch the movie as I was promised that there are English Subtitles shown on screen. The movie was Phenomenal and No wonder its shattering all box office records and still roaring to go high. Anyways, this post is not a review of the movie.

As a Management Student, I have always been a keen student of “Strategy” and this movie provided me ample scope to revisit some of the strategy concepts. Strategy as a Subject in Management Field may be a relatively new term (Only in 1970`s did Harvard introduce Strategy as a Management Subject in Business Schools), but Strategy as a Concept is very old. In fact, the it might be about 1000`s of years old. Strategy as a concept has been extensively used and devised in almost any war that has ever been fought, be it the Great War of Mahabharat or the Wars fought during Greek or Roman Era. One of the earliest known treatise on Strategy is “The Art of War” written by Sun Tsu – A ancient Chinese Military General. This treatise was probably written in 500 BC and has a lot of relevance in today`s business world. It is in fact one of the recommended texts for Strategy Courses in B-Schools.

The backdrop of the movie Baahubali is probably set up in the 8th Century AD. This is based on my understanding from the subtitles. The movie is basically about fight for the throne of a kingdom by two brothers. However, I found the following scenes from the movie that explicitly shows the Strategy concepts or Management lessons that I found very interesting.

(Note : If you have seen the movie, it is easier to relate)

1.Gender Diversity – There is enough evidence in the movie that Women are treated as equals. Some ancient stories/texts forbid women from entering battlefield. At least, that’s what the perception is. In this movie, we see that Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) takes over the Kingdom when the King of Mahismati dies. Ideally, Bhijjaladeva ( Nazar) should have taken over, but owing to his disability, Sivagami steps in and performs the duties. One point to be noted is She doesn’t assume the throne as she feels that not her right place. This goes on to show that one doesn’t need a title to lead. And doesn`t necessarily need credits to prove he is a leader. Also, she is present during the war on the Battlefield. Another Instance of Equality of Gender was when the Tribal Leader assigns Avantika (Tammana) the responsibility of killing Bhalladeva (Rana) and Freeing Devasena (Anushka).

2.Optimal Use of resources – Prior to the War, it is learned that Kalakeya(Antagonist – A tribal warlord) has a army of 1,00,000 and they wage a war against Mahishmati Kingdom that has a army of 25,000. Clearly it seems that Kalakeya has a advantage. But, in order to mitigate the attack Baahubali (Prabhas) suggests that they have a trishul formation. Out of the 25,000 available soldiers (Resources) 10,000 soldiers are assigned to Baahubali (Prabhas) and other 10,000 is assigned to Bhalladeva (Rana) and 5,000 is assigned to Kattapa (SatyaRaj). The way the trishul formation happens is similar to an Isosceles Triangle. In the vertex is Kattapa with his 5,000 solidiers giving a strong defence whereas from the 2 equal sides, Baahubali and Rana provide the defence A signal is given to the 2 crown prince to attack the warlord Kalakeya whereas Kattapa still provides the defence. This is a case of optimal resource loading and assigning the right people with right task.

3.Innovation – Bhijjaladeva ( Nazar) is partial towards his son and provides Bhalladeva (Rana) with the best weapons. Among the arsenal of weapons, Bhalladeva gets all the swords, arrows missile system and a chariot with cutting blade which is deemed to be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Baahubali (Prabhas) in turn gets Cannon Guns, Spears and Bows and arrows. Generally, these weapons are considered to be a liability than a strength due to their long loading times and inefficiencies. Kattappa suggest Baahubali to ask for better weapons or rather equal share of weapons. But, instead of cribbing about this, Baahubali thinks of innovative ways to use his set of weak weapons. One such innovation was to use a oil drenched cloth along with the canon balls. The enemy is puzzled at what this cloth was all about in a deadly war. He later sets the cloth on fire destroying hundreds of enemies. This is innovation at work and trying to think an out of the box solution.

4.Motivation – After Mahisimati has a huge casualty, the soldiers start dying and suddenly the fear of death prevails among them. They start giving up and running away from the battlefield. At this point, Baahubali gives an inspiration speech (I dint understand much of it) but it was very inspirational and motivational and he urges the soldiers not to give it up yet and start fighting again. In contrast, the other crown prince, Bhalladeva doesn`t really care or bother about the situation and stays mum. The lesson here is that leaders should motivate and stay with their team members even in the difficult times instead of pressurizing them to deliver results.

5.Thinking out of the Box – When Baahubali suggests that they will go for Trishul formation, Bhijjaladeva ( Nazar) doesn’t accept the solution saying that it is a textbook example and can never be implemented in real time or war situation. Still, Baahubali persists with his idea and tries to convince others. Sivagami too appreciates the fact that even the enemy Kalakeya wouldn’t expect a textbook example being implemented in action. Even Bhalladeva in in favor of this solution. The takeaway here is that even though time and tested methods of solution exists, always try to differentiate your solution/offering. Think Different.

6.Compassion – During the war, the target set for the crown prince is that they should kill Kalaleya in order to become a king and whoever so kills him shall become the king of Mahishmati. Bhalladeva is very focused on this target and is always in a dire urge to kill Kalakeya. In fact, in one of the situations, Kalakeya holds the innocent citizens of Mahismati as a defence against incoming attack of Mahishmati. Bhalladeva has no mercy or concern for the innocent citizens and charges his blade chariot into the innocent citizens killing a lot of them in order to attack Kalakeya. When confronted with the same situation, Baahubali doesn’t proceed ahead. Rather he decides to first secure the innocent citizens and then proceeds to attack Kalakeya.

Another instance of Compassion is that before the beginning of the war, it is traditional to sacrifice a animal to ensure victory to Goddess Kali. Bhalladeva proceeds with sacrificing the innocent animal, where as baahubali doesn’t believe in this blind belief and doesn’t proceed with the sacrifice. This goes on to show that Leaders should have Compassion and should protect the interests of all the stakeholders, employees and workers even at the cost of achieving profits

So, to me, I thought that it was very good film with a lot of thought put into it. Other things to look out are the breathtaking VFX, excellent portrayal of characters and exotic locations. I think it was a very good movie by Director Rajamouli and Team and I`m looking forward to see the next part in 2016.

Arun Prasad
Class of 2015
IIM Calcutta