Battlefield to Boardroom

Battlefield to Boardroom – 7 lessons for startups from the Indian Army

“More contenders fighting for less resources” is the fundamental definition of warfare. Incidentally, the arena of Business can also be defined using the same definition. There are more companies trying to sell to less customers; more advertising for lesser mindshare; more applicants for lesser jobs et al. It is seen that a large number of contenders fighting over limited resources wrings throughout corporate life as it does in army life.

Raghu Raman, an army veteran and CEO of the National Intelligence Grid, in a TEDx Talk delivered in Goa shared a framework. This framework can be used by a startup to design any operation – from writing a term paper, to create scalable operations, roadmap planning, pitch presentations and almost any function needed to make the startup succeed.

The smallest unit of any army in the world comprises 10 soldiers and a commanding officer. A multiple of this basic unit comprises the entire army.

The present Indian army finds its roots from the British Indian Army, which comprised soldiers and jurisdiction over present-day India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The language and terms of most orders in the Indian army are derived from Urdu, English and Hindi.

The way this can be achieved is to remember the term Z KIT BAG.


Army Definition: Lay of the land. Before planning an operation the military troop must know the ground conditions. Whether it is mountainous or desert terrain; will it allow the landing of paratroopers; are there permanent or seasonal water bodies; will infiltration will be easy or difficult, based on which should there be jeeps, tanks, trucks, amphibious vehicles or air drops. This is the lay of the land and it has to be considered before designing any operation in the Indian army.

Startup Definition: What are the entry barriers into the new business? What are market realities ? What are the forces that are operating in the space? What is the Total Addressable Market (TAM)? Market intelligence is the crucial process that any startup should perform before making its business plan.


Army Definition: While designing an operational campaign, the army must have intelligence about the opposing army as well as their own internal capabilities. What is their strength? Number of troops, arms, ammunition. Which geographies are they present in and what are their strategic advantages ? How long will their rations last? What is their ability to withstand an attack ? What is your own unit’s capability? How long will the rations last? What is the firepower owned and how can it be best deployed to counter the enemy’s firepower?

Startup Definition: What does the competitor landscape look like? What is their strategy? What are their resources and which verticals are the deployed in? What are their pivoting capabilities? What is their market share? A total due diligence of the competitor landscape will prevent any startup from being blindsided when they enter a space.

Similarly, internal intelligence is equally important. An internal SWOT analysis. What are some key partners and alliances that can make your startup grow? etc.


Army Definition: Strategic intent has to be communicated and understood with crystal clarity by everyone from the platoon / troop leader to the lowest ranking soldier.

“Our platoon will capture this hilltop before 0600 hrs tomorrow morning” is the typical format for communicating the intent to a platoon or a troop. The reason why the communication of intent is important for any unit of the army is that it must be followed in the presence or absence of leadership. In case the commander is killed in combat, the troops should know what to do in autonomous mode.

Startup Definition: Vision and Mission documents are important for all team members of a startup aligned and motivated to perform efficiently, especially when it starts to scale up. “We would capture 20% of the market share within the next 36 months”.


Army Definition: What is the methodology ? Will we do it in phases? Who will be the commander of each phase? What will be the signal of the commander of the next phase to take on their role in the battlefield ? Each element of the tareeka, step by step is defined. All the different platoons are informed in detail about their roles so that the entire operation is coordinated like clockwork.

Startup Definition: Standard Operation Protocols (SOPs) are used to define each process and action step of the organisation to achieve its vision and mission. Each head of each department must know what their roles are in each phase. The transition from one phase of product or service development to the next phase must be defined and communicated to all contributing team members.


Army Definition: How many troops do we need to make this mission a success? Will we need support from the Navy / Airforce? If yes, then at which stage will they be brought in? If that fails, what is the contingency plan? Where will the resourcing come from ?

Startup Definition: Coordination between management and HR functions of a startup ensure that resources are available as and when they are needed. It is also important to do a deep scan of resources available in hand and an audit of their efficiency. Typing up with the right partners / vendors at the right prices help a startup in being able to achieve their goals with optimum resource usage which in turn affect the bottom line.


Army Definition: Most military campaigns succeed or fail because of logistics. Making the right resources available to the right soldiers at the right time is what ensures the success or failure of a platoon, troop or division.

Startup Definition: HR, logistics, infrastructure, cash flow etc. make or break a startup’s operations. If administration is not efficiently carried out, it is highly likely the startup will fail inspite and despite the brilliance of its product or team.


Army Definition: Planning an attack on an enemy outpost is a combination of various strategies, which must be coordinated by different platoons, battalions or even divisions of the army. Maybe an outpost has to be attacked with 200 soldiers on ground, but it needs to be softened by an airstrike between 0545 hrs to 0600 hrs. If the watches of the soldiers on ground are not coordinated with the pilots in the planes, they will end up bombing their own army. This is why it is crucial for everyone to be coordinated with time and the timely execution of their responsibilities.

Startup Definition: A deadline of “As soon as possible’ can mean 45 minutes for one manager, but 2 hours for their reporting staff. Unless everyone has a common vocabulary of time, place and execution, the operation is bound to fail. It is important that everyone is coordinated and brought on the same page as far as timely execution of deliverables is concerned to prevent any disparity in execution.

The above framework can be used for any operation, task and sub task in any professional or personal project in life. Click here to view the original TED talk.

Skannd Tyagi, Chief Technology Mentor, Neotec Hub

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