Saturday, April 13, 2013

MBA Revisited - The BCG Matrix of Kauravs and Pandavs

I have spent 2 precious years of my otherwise random life in a B-school. If I assume that I will live for 70 years in total, these 2 years form a good 2.857% of my lifetime. Then how is this 2.857% different from the remaining twenty-three “2 years” of my life? Well, they are. And in a great way. 

Passing out of a B-school has many advantages. We get an additional qualification, an enormous set of friends and people assume we know a lot. And we, at the same time, never feel like falsifying them. In fact, we go two steps ahead and bolster their belief by saying terms like “paradigm shift” and “brand equity”, and at times, both together in a sentence. Have you seen mere mortals talk like that? I am sure, not.

An MBA degree also means something more. It means that we have the right to say anything, state anything. All we have to do in order to get noticed is to write a research paper based on it, and if fortunate enough, develop our own (management) tools. These tools mater a lot – apart from fetching good scores, these validate our existence in the cruel professional jungle where there is the survival of the nerd(est).

Note: You might call me one by the end of the article.

The History of Management Science has seen many such tools, and one of the most predominantly discussed tools is the BCG Matrix devised by the Boston Consulting Group. It is based on the product life-cycle theory (…and here I am) and helps to determine what priorities should be given to the product portfolio of a business unit for sustained success.

I wonder, had Management Science existed back in Dwapar Yug, would Duryodhan have been able to use it to his advantage? Agreed, he never listened to anything sensible but this is no Bheeshm or Drona talking, this is Boston Consulting Group. But BCG did not exist then and neither did the BCG Matrix. Still, I wondered that if we could formulate the BCG Matrix for the respective Kaurav and Pandav armies, would there be some interesting revelation?

BCG Matrix, as I discussed above, helps to determine the priorities that should be given to the product portfolio of a business unit for a sustained success and it is based on the product-life cycle theory. I will give a very brief introduction here. For more on BCG matrix, please visit this link. 

Placing products in the BCG matrix results in 4 categories of portfolio for a company:

BCG Matrix
  1. Stars (High Growth and High Market Share): Stars are business units that have a large market share in a fast growing industry. They may generate huge cash but since investments are huge too, the net cash flow is not quite boastful.
  2. Cash Cows (Low Growth and High Market Share): Cash Cows generate good amount of cash (surprisingly, no milk) due to high market share but since the market is mature, the investment required should be less.
  3. Question Marks (High Growth and Low Market Share): These are the SBUs with a high rate of market growth but somehow low market share. These require heavy investments to convert into stars or else they get converted into dogs.
  4. Dogs (Low Growth and Low Market Share): In short, good for nothing. The earlier you get rid of them, the better it is for you.
One can say, Cash Cows are the most desirable as they give great returns with minimal investments (though they might not last very long). Then come the Stars that bring good returns and promise a positive future but require huge investments. The Question Marks need to be worked upon else one invests heavily and receives nothing in return. Dogs need to be get ridden of. 

From this you can conclude that Stars and Question Marks (High Growth) require high investments. They are similar to our warriors who required huge investments in terms of emotions or resources to sustain them on their respective sides. High Market Share is an advantage of that SBU, similar to the Martial Prowess of the warriors. 

Hence, the Kaurav / Pandav BCG Matrix can have the following dimensions:

X Axis: Martial Power
Y Axis: Resource or Emotion Investment

Of course, the Kaurav and Pandav armies were not on the path of manufacturing and marketing technically. If anything, it was a path of sheer destruction. But the battlefield of Kurukshetra is in many ways like the modern-day corporate battlefields called markets, where weapons represent products and great warriors represent Strategic Business Units (SBUs). Sounds like heavy stuff? Well then this is the power of a B-school.

Kaurav Army

The major warriors from Kaurav side were (in descending order of prowess):
  • Bheeshm: Bheeshm would surely be classified as a cash cow. This has nothing to do with his white clothes, white chariot-flag or even the white beard. This is serious stuff. He is one character of the epic that I respect the most. So no jokes. He is a cash cow because he is the only warrior who was a reliable impeccable commander, was martially invincible and would die only when he would want. So much came with almost no emotional or resourceful investment from Duryodhan’s side. Certainly, a Cash Cow. Sure, he pledged not to harm the Pandavs but the harm he did to their army was no petty stuff. (High Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Drona: He was a Brahmin by birth hence fond of cows but perhaps not fond of becoming one. Was almost equally invincible like Bheeshm but there were huge investments in keeping the teacher into the kingdom. He threatened to leave the Kauravs a couple of times but to the efforts of the elderly. In fact, Duryodhan did not relish the pleasure of Indraprashta during the Pandav exile as it was administered by Dronacharya. Duryodhan and his brothers had to continually boost his ego and keep his son Ashwatthama pleased thereby calling for huge investments. If properly channelized, he could prove to be a disaster to the Pandavs (and he did). Drona is a Star. (High Martial Power – High Investment).
  • Kripacharya: He too was a Brahman, maybe had his share of fee for teaching and was supremely powerful. Not much has been said about capriciousness of his mind, but considering he had grown up in Hastinapur and had been with Kauravs throughout, there was lesser chance he would have left them. Cash Cow. (High Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Ashwatthama: Almost as talented as the father, and as evil as Amrish Puri and Gulshan Grover combined, Ashwatthama needed to be pleased constantly by Duryodhan to sustain in the Kaurav camp. Also, his change of mind would affect Drona’s involvement too, Duryodhan left no stone unturned in keeping Ashwatthama to his side. Star. (High Martial Power – High Investment).
  • Karna: Keeping Karna on the Kaurav side required one-time investment of Anga and continuous investment of emotions. Castigated by the Kuru elite and faculty heads constantly, the son of the Sun kept on striving constantly to make a mark for himself. Pacifying him required huge emotional investment from Duryodhan. (In fact, Karna's presence in the Kaurav camp displeased many from the older lot - Bheeshma, Kripa and Drona as they saw him as an ambitious son of a mere charioteer.) And all this investment was in expectation of a return, his loyalty and his archery skills. Karna was loyal towards Duryodhan but his weapons were not. Hence, it was false loyalty. Moreover, the burden of curse-couple almost confirmed his failure in advance. He did tackle Ghatotkach, but did nothing as compared to what was expected of him. Karna would be a Question Mark. (Low Martial Power – High Investment).
  • Duryodhan: In his own army, Duryodhan was one hell of an interesting element. In past he had showered away huge riches of the Kurus to impress his subjects. Though he was a pro at mace-wielding, it was not of much use on the battlefield as compared to how Bheema used it. Though he yearned for the war the most, he contributed to it the least. Question Mark. (Low Martial Power – High Investment).
  • Dushasan: There would be no reason why one would even think keeping Dushasan was an effort. The skills he brought to the battlefield went as unnoticed as went the Abhishek-Aishwarya starrer Umrao Jaan. Dushasan classifies as a Dog. (Did you have a doubt, anyway?). (Low Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Shalya: The extra-ordinary hospitality infrastructure deployed to keep this warrior-charioteer on the Kaurav side required huge investments. And for what? For the martial powers required to kill Uttar and charioteer skills to assist Karna, and we know how ‘well’ he did that. Shalya was a disaster deal. Question Mark. (Low Martial Power - High Investment).
  • Jaydrath: This licentious brother-in-law of the Kauravs proved to be of some worth. All thanks to the boons that enabled him to cause Abhimanyu’s death. But certainly, he was nothing in comparison to the Kuru elderly. Investment was certainly huge. Didn’t you read he was the brother-in-law and that too of a licentious kind? Question Mark. (Low Martial Power – High Investment)
Cash Cow
Cash Cow
Question Mark
Question Mark
Question Mark
Question Mark

The Kaurav BCG Matrix

Note: Just like you, I too was upset when Jaydrath did not qualify as a Dog.

Pandav Army

The major warriors from Pandav side were (in descending order of prowess):
  • Arjun: This is perhaps the name that was the most used in those eighteen days, before and after. In terms of martial prowess, Arjun was the master-key for the Pandavs, a catastrophic nightmare for the Kauravs. Never losing his target, loaded with potent weapons and the fury to destroy all that came his way, graced by Hanuman on the chariot-flag and Krishna as the charioteer, Arjun’s martial power almost approached to infinity. And since the war was his, there was no investment question in picture. Arjun was a Cash Cow. (High Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Bheem: He was to mace, what Arjun was to bow. He was to Kauravs, what CIA is to terrorists. The 1000 elephant-powered Bheem was the Hulk of the Pandav avengers. He killed the 100 sons of Gandhari in the war single-handed and smashed thousands of soldiers and other warriors to death with a blow of his mace. This indignant Pandav was the most desperate to fight and avenge. I guess, investments in his case were tremendous as he probably ate away half the food of his army himself but he was to be the support till the end. Bheem was a Star. (High Martial Power - High Investment).
  • Yudhishthir: His martial skills were never extra-ordinary, except for the spear, and so he was not so much of a worry for the Kauravs. In fact, special efforts were put in to safeguard him on the battlefield for he was the king of the Pandav side. But he was the string that held every warrior on the Pandav side together which makes him the most important of all other warriors. Yudhishtir was a Cow too. Oh, I mean Cash Cow (High Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Abhimanyu: This little 16-year old child who could not complete his Chakravyuh syllabus (exit portion) before entering into the war was otherwise almost equally matched in his archery skills to his father. He fought with complete will and played a crucial role in causing so much terror among the Kauravs that they were compelled to hack him 7-on-1. Abhimanyu too was a Cash Cow. (High Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Nakul / Sahadev (of course they can’t be enlisted separately): Except for Sahadev killing Shakuni, the twin sons of the Ashwini twins had no special achievements mentioned in their post-war resume. But that they survived by the end of the war does mean something. Does it not? Maybe they had some invisible factor that makes them a Cash Cow too. (High Martial 'whatever' Power – Low Investment).
  • Ghatotkach: If he was anything, one will say he was an unexpected bonus. He participated in the war on his own will, killed millions when alive, made Karan sacrifice his Indra-shakti and again killed millions while dying. He is the largest Cash Cow BCG matrix would ever witness. I doubt if he will even fit in the matrix! (High Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Drupad: Though Mr. Panchala were fighting to avenge his insult, his daughter's insult and for umpteen other reasons best known to him, he did not leave any noticeable impact in the war. But his Panchala army was a great strength for the Pandav side which in total makes him a Cash Cow. (High Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Drishtadyumna: As compared to 4 commander-in-chiefs of Kauravs, Pandavs had only one. And it was this gentleman who was born out of fire to kill the Kaurav super-star. Not only was he sufficiently capable as a warrior he was also an astute general. He too participated in this quest for avenge with exhausting will. Cash Cow again. (High Martial Power – Low Investment).
  • Krishna: And here comes the one who pledged not to use his martial prowess at all but whose involvement affected the course of the war from beginning to the end. The charioteer of Arjun enlightened him at the beginning of the war goading him to action, devised the way to defeat Bhishm, tackle Dronacharya, discover and kill Jayadrath, slay Karna and shatter Duryodhan. On many occasions, he intervened and saved Pandavs and their army with his divine protection. This charioteer and consultant of Arjun, is certainly a Cash Cow. (High Martial Power – Low Investment). 
Krishna is worshiped as a cowherd and classified as a Cash Cow in the BCG Matrix. Is BCG Matrix a divine invention or what?

Cash Cow
Cash Cow
Cash Cow
Nakul / Sahadev
Cash Cow
Cash Cow
Cash Cow
Cash Cow
Cash Cow

The Pandav BCG Matrix

Interesting Revelations:

  • The Kaurav Warrior Portfolio is highly scattered over the BCG Matrix with very few reliable Cash Cows. On the contrary, the Pandav Warrior Portfolio has a dense Cash Cow quarter. Warriors on the Pandav side were clearly more aligned towards the organizational vision / mission / goal / objective ...... whatever!!
  • The Question Marks need to be identified and transformed into Stars to ensure high growth and high returns later. The Kaurav Warrior Portfolio had four Question Marks that did not get transformed into Stars, let alone the Cash Cows. Huge investment with low return is of course a failed proposition for any business. Pandavs made no such mistake.
  • Kauravs did nothing to get rid of the Dog in their portfolio. In fact, a Star had to jump out from another matrix to wipe it out. 
And we all know what the result of this war was. One might wonder, what if BCG had existed before the war, would the results have been any different?!

Disclaimer: In case you are a B-School student, please do not take inspiration from this blog for filling your answer-sheets. You might fail miserably, very much like the Kauravs.


  1. Kushal I must say its a very exiting idea to link mythology with today's management principles (r u planning fr ur own version of art of war? :p). The execution of idea is very good indeed and this blog makes a good read. I have a few little somethings and would like ur take on them.

    Firstly the definitions, (these is my take and it may not necessarily mean the correct way)

    Question marks- An offshoot of an industry which is at very nascent stage, nt much is known about them, just the fact thers something exciting and having huge potential to grow. When we talk about people, these are generally the teenagers, which show a lot of promise and if everything goes right they may become huge.

    Stars are like little plants, they have created their identities but still they are far from being seen on par with established ones. They are flexible, evolving, dynamic and all they require is experience and faith in them. Although their are uncertainties but they are the future.

    Cash cows are the heroes, they give you returns with least amount of risks. They are experienced, they have their foothold and are the ones that command respect They are the true leaders and without them battle is almost impossible to be won.

    Dogs- U explained them exactly. Get rid of them or they will bite u.

    I have certain questions on the categories for Pandvas

    Bheem I think was a cash cow, an experienced fellow with excellent skills and a true leader in his clan.

    Abhimanyu was a true Star. He may not have consumed much resources but when he went into the war, not much was expected from him. He was a great warrior and a Patriot and fought for his army till the last drop of the blood but his skills were limited. Although, not knowing the exit way of Chakravyuh was not his fault but still treating him as a cash cow may actually be equivalent to making Kohli as Captain of the test team. (He was just not there) He may actually become Cash Cow had he lived past that war.

    Nakul / Sahadev were unknown commodities. They were at best the helping hands and thus it was only expected that they had experience but it was not firmly believed that they had those things. They were actually question marks for me but since they killed Shakuni, I would mark them as Stars.

    lastly and most importantly, When we are talking about an army, do u believe that it should be full of cash cows? because I dont and I think there has to be a mix/ balance. U certainly need cash cows in the army but battlefield needs aggression as much as it needs experience. A cash cow is someone who has wealth of experience has done it all and now is playing a set game, he is not known for taking risks, he is known for reaping rewards for all the efforts he did in past when he was a star. Talking about battleground, a person with a rigid or a set style of functioning may be the first to get hurt because enemies know him, his ways and his weaknesses. It is the person with abilities to adjust, fights the longest in battlefield.

    So if the Pandavas were full of Cash Cows, we may have seen a different result.

    1. Hi Raghav,

      Thanks for a patient read and comments. Loved your observational skills, like always and agree with most of them.

      The reason why our answers differ a bit is probably in the aspect of BCG matrix that we have focused on. You have pointed out correctly what the different categories of the matrix mean. But while designing the Kaurav-Pandav matrix my axes are more dependent on the pros and cons coming from the different categories. Eg., you have talked about Cash cows, their reliability and effectiveness. My axes are based on the efforts made and advantages that they bring (High returns / Low investment = Martial power returns / emotional investment). Hence, the difference.

      1. Bheem, for all probable reasons, would fall under Cash cows. Sure. Despite his achievements, however, I put him under the Star category for his eating away half of the army food. Maybe my attempt to humour clouded my judgement. ;)
      2. Abhimanyu was young and new to the art of war, but when it came to skills, he was at par with his father. Except for Arjun, he was the only one to force Bheeshm to retreat on day 1. He failed Drona's plan to capture Yudi which no other Pandav except for his father was capable of. In fact, except for half-knowledge of Chakravyuh he was almost equivalent to Arjuna. Imagine, the boy handled 7 great Kuru warriors single-handed for an entire day and all had to team-up to shut him up. And in return, the investment that was required in his case was close to nil.
      3. With all due respect to the Ashwini sons, even I too felt they were unknown commodities. But the warrior portfolio had to be included anyhow. I included them in the Cash cows as I believe investment again was low in their case and there must be something in them that they somehow survived!

      On the whole, if one sees it from the long-term perspective, one would definitely require Stars to sustain, only Cash cows may not help to win. But considering that after this war there was no scope of any war for generations, the focus here would be highly short-term and in such case an abundance Cash cows would be the best bet, followed by Stars. The Pandavs probably had that.

      My "Art of War"? Let's see ;)

  2. I've neither attended B-school nor can understand what's written above..but seriously..Are you kidding me??!!


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