Vikram and Vetal: an introduction to a new column on entrepreneurship

Here's a new column based on the legend of Vikram and Vetal which will discuss the concepts of Organisational Behaviour' for an entrepreneur

Format that we have borrowed: Vikram and Vetal.

This has been one of the most powerful series of tales that children have grown up on, thanks to Chandamama and Amar Chitra Katha.

The story goes something like this. King Vikramaditya was known both for his knowledge and sense of fair play. A sage visited the king every day and offered him a fruit. At some point, the king discovered that each fruit contained an expensive gem. So he called the sage to his court and asked him why. The sage replied that he needed a favor from the king. He said that he had been engaged in a ritual which would liberate his spirit from his body and for that ritual to be successful, he needed the king to provide him with a corpse hanging from a tree. The king agreed to deliver the corpse to him.

An artist's impression of Vikram and Vetal

The king went into the jungle, found the corpse hanging from a tree, slung it on his shoulder and started to walk back. The corpse then told the king that since it was a long walk back, he would tell the king a story and at the end of the story he would ask him a question. If the king knew the answer, he had to give him the answer. But the moment the king broke his silence, the corpse would fly back to the tree. But if the king knew the answer and chose not to speak, his head would burst into a million pieces.

The king agreed. So over the next 24 episodes, the corpse told him a story, asked a question, and since the king knew the answer and spoke, the corpse flew back to the tree. Each time the king went back to the tree and picked up the corpse all over again.

But in the 25th episode, the king did not know the answer to the question so he continued to walk silently towards the sage, and the corpse then told him that the sage was wicked and had plans to kill the king. The corpse also told the king how to circumvent it and kill the sage instead. And the moment the sage was killed, the troubled spirit of the corpse freed itself and the series ended.

How do we apply this format to the series on entrepreneurship that we want to write? Why did we come up with this idea? You know, Management is called a bastard science because there is not one concept that it has not borrowed from other social sciences, chiefly, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, Politics and Economics. But unfortunately very few entrepreneurs come from a background of Liberal Arts where these disciplines are taught to them.

In engineering, even though they have a subject called New Venture Creation, this focuses more on the financial aspects of creating a business and less on organisation building competencies.

In business schools, there is a paper called Organisation Behavior (OB) which is offered in the first semester and in most schools, the concepts are  taught, much to our chagrin, so theoretically and by someone who has never been inside an organisation, that, its importance is lost on the cohorts!

This is our pet peeve that business schools don’t give enough attention to OB and entrepreneurs never learn to give primacy to OB concepts – much to their peril. Janaki and I think through Vikram and Vetal series, we will be able to,  in a fun way , teach basic concepts in Organisation Behaviour which will help founders transition from entrepreneur to leader.

So this is how we have visualized it. The context is this. An entrepreneur has pitched to a consortium of investors for Series A funding. His ask is $250 million. The consortium is convinced about the product and the business model as the company has already established a huge mindshare with its customers. What the investors want to be convinced about is whether the entrepreneur has the capability to transition as a leader and grow the company to not just the next level but several notches higher. In other words, they know he has been a successful entrepreneur, but they want to establish that he’s a capable leader before they invest in his organisation.

So we made leadership an umbrella item and identified 20 components of leadership.

Some of the components are for instance, negotiation, decision-making, customer experience, perception, conflict resolution, learning, motivation, intelligence, personality, consensus, culture, diversity, competition, innovation, strategy, succession planning,  corporate ethics, attitude, communication, power and influence, etc.  

In the course of the next 20 columns, you will see each of these metrics unravel as a conversation between the entrepreneur and the investor. The entrepreneur is obviously the king and the investor is obviously the ghost. And the investor (ghost) will narrate a use case on each theme and at the end of the story, will ask a question relating to the use case. The entrepreneur is expected to answer (not answering is not an option at all) and if the answer is appealing to the investor, the ghost goes back to the tree.

What we plan do to engage all of you - our readers -  is at the end of each use case, we pose a question and invite your answers and we will publish the best answer in the subsequent column and additionally, we will reward you with a half hour free mentoring chat with Nandini Vaidyanathan.  You can mail your answers to

So this series consists of 22 weekly columns. This is the first one and sets the context. The next 20 will address each of the leadership components, highlighted in red.  In the 22nd, we will bring them all together and wrap it up. So girdle up!

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