Did Laloo Yadav Learn Judo Strategy?

 | August 09,2010 05:00 pm IST

At the outset, let me ensure all of you that I am neither a supporter of Laloo Yadav nor is this article meant to offend him or any of his supporters. It is my perspective of looking at his actions and meteoric rise and draw inferences from the point of view of strategy.

The idea of seeing Laloo Yadav as a strategist struck me in one of my strategy classes, thanks to our strategy teacher Mr. Ajit Prasad who has taught us to relate each and every aspect of strategy beyond corporate arena. The more I thought about it, the more fascinating it became.


What is Judo Strategy?

In the simplest of words, it is an approach to competition that emphasizes skill, rather than size or strength. Based, entirely on the rules of "Judo", the underlying motive remains the same, how to beat a competitor who has everything from size to history with him. If I am a new entrant against a behemoth incumbent I can't even think of clashing head on, do I have a reason to actually fight at all. Most of the rational souls, especially the orthodox economists would disagree, but Laloo Yadav decided otherwise. Was he not rational? Who cares, at the end of the day he has been successful. Let us see how he has applied the main techniques of Judo Strategy in his political career so far.


The Puppy dog Ploy

Have you ever been to a Baraat where the food is not served indoor? If yes, then you must have observed a group of dogs in one corner relishing the left over food. You will mostly see the big bully dogs that compromise with one another for the common good. The middle sized dogs are mostly shown the way by the biggies. But, there is a third party to the feast. They are the small puppies who are too small to gather any attention and moreover, they never hog the central area. Very silently, they eat a small portion of the food without even bothering the biggies. This is exactly what Judo Strategy's first technique suggests, "keep a low profile and avoid head to head battles that you are too weak to win". Nirma did this initially and Ghadi is trying to do it even today. Does Laloo Yadav follow this? Of course not today. But, he is no more a "puppy" now.


From the days of JP movement to his university elections (he was also the president of Patna university Students Union) to the day he became the chief minister of Bihar, he was always a low profile leader. Though he had become a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1977, he was never called the future CM by any visionary as Mr. Vajpayee was called the future PM by none other than Pt. Nehru himself way back in 1960s. Being powerful does not come without costs. The stronger you grow, the more opponents you will have. When Mr. Devegoda became the prime Minister, his name was fourth even in the party least for the coveted post. Sometimes, being low profile and weak does the trick, as was the case with Mr. Devegoda.


Define the competitive space

While the puppy dog ploy is largely about defense, with this next technique, offence comes into play. Here is where one seizes the initiative by defining a competitive space where one can take the lead. Jonty Rhodes could play Hockey equally well (has even represented South Africa), Vivian Richards was adept even at Soccer and Kishor Kumar became a legend only when he set his priority as a singer over the actor. The point I am trying to make is that one has to define one's competitive space to be successful in the long run. Huh... Old wine in new bottle! Socrates said "Know thyself" and C.K. Prahlad has given us the logic of "Core competence", all of it leads to the same point. Every champion has areas where he is weak, often precisely because he has invested so heavily in his core strengths. Judo strategy teaches one to take advantage of these weak points to define a game one can win. The Southwestern Airlines is a classic case in this context.


So, what has Laloo Yadav done regarding this? Well, if see the marketing strategy of BJP, we will find that redefined the segmentation of the market, basing it essentially on religion. Now, a good Judo student will never fall into this trap. He will try to see if there is a gap in the market. If not, he will see can he redefine the rules of the game? And Laloo Yadav, of course is a good student. He restricted his competitive space to Bihar and redefined the market on the basis of caste. Further, he came out with "MY" equation meaning Muslim-Yadav. Without much effort he could give his product a beautiful secular packaging as well. Strangely, we do not have a parallel word to secular, for inter caste harmony and brotherhood. Did Laloo smell it beforehand?