Surviving the pandemic – shrewdness and ruthlessness in business
“Shrewd is a compliment for a business. Shrewdness can be view both positively and negatively. At times, circumstances compel a businessperson to take ruthless decisions with his head more often than with his heart and to be ruthless, if a situation demands of. A business house has to be ruthless in its competition while at the same time doing good for greater society. Sometimes, you have to be ruthless even to yourself to achieve a positive outcome.” Binod Chaudary
The world is going through a difficult situation with the outbreak of the coronavirus which affects everyone in different ways. For businesspeople, it comes with unique challenges. They need to try to sustain their businesses at all costs. This is a time for them to apply all possible techniques. Binod Chaudary, founder of the CG Group of companies and one of Nepal’s most successful businesspeople, claims that businesspeople need to be shrewd and ruthless to succeed. The coronavirus situation has provided an interesting opportunity to test this. The economic crisis has resulted in an employment crisis with some claiming that 3 in 5 jobs were lost in Nepal and others claiming that 2 in 5 jobs lost during the crisis globally may not come back. Who do you think is responsible for these decisions? It is the businesspeople who have to make ruthless decisions to save their companies’ existence, keeping only the most needed employees, often with reduced salaries, At this point, they must be strong and make decisions with their minds without being emotional. Ruthlessness is a behavior requiring having no pity and a strong determination towards their goal regardless of the consequences; in spite of having emotions and a soft heart, they must cross the hard situations using their mind to get the goal. They don’t listen to their heart and that is what leads them to become successful businesspeople. For the survival of business in these times, businesspeople need to be shrewd. Some argue that shrewdness Shrewd is the kind of attitude that is identified by practical hard-headed intelligence or the most calculating individual with a specific goal that leads them to be a successful businessperson.
Binod Chaudhary’s statement sums up what businesspeople need to do to survive today. Businesspeople must have strategies and shrewdness because to secure the future of their businesses. To Chaudary, to be called a shrewd businessperson is like defining their work and personality as tough one but sharp minded, possibly difficult to understand. Every businessperson wants to be known as strong and successful, so perhaps the word ‘shrewd’ is a compliment for businesspeople to define their work. Let’s take an example: an entrepreneur named Salikram who wants to do business in Nepal selling organic dried apples. In the early days of his business, he earns very well but then he makes a decision which makes his business go down and he is upset about it. Salikram questions himself as to where he went wrong. Suddenly, all the answers pop into his head. His first answer is that, at the beginning there weren’t other businesses but now the market is flooded, meaning that he has more competitors. Secondly, he sells his products both in apple season and in the off-season so customers believe that those apples aren’t fresh. Third, although his apples were organic, his competitors were much more clever in attracting their customers through brands and advertisements. Some tough decisions needed to be made.
Our world works on the basis of innovation. Customers prefer to use branded and appealing products to satisfy their every need but every customer has different needs making it impossible for a business to include all qualities to satisfy everyone. For example, some of Salikram’s customers preferred to have their dried apples with the peel and others preferred them peeled. He calculated all the strong and weak points in his business and discovered that his business could provide apples in all seasons while other companies could not, giving Salikram’s business a strong competitive advantage. He decreased the price in the offseason so that all the customers could get access to the products and taste them and learn that they taste just as fresh. Although this resulted in a reduction in his profits, he was happy because he could then advertise his products when no competitor could, raising brand awareness to the consumers. His shrewd decision resulted in success. In fact to be successful in business, shrewdness is unapologetically necessary – business leaders need to must have the qualities of a fox to understand how to avoid traps and problematic situations, the qualities of a snake to establish the sting of awareness and the qualities of a of a dolphin to signal harmony and peace to allies and friends. Both shrewdness and ruthlessness work hand in hand. Businesspeople should be able to understand the importance of each.
Shrewdness can be viewed either positively or negatively. In business, it can be viewed positively when a business is successful but it can also be taken negatively, for example by the people who lost their jobs when their bosses made ruthless decisions to survive during this pandemic. Having no choice to save the business from falling and to get past such a critical and tough situation, businesspeople have be shrewd and take a strong stance to lower the costs so that, it can be invested as required in the needed situation. Some may see these decisions as negative and not made with the heart. But they may be necessary.
Change is unforeseeable. The coronavirus pandemic is an extreme example of this. A businessperson needs to adapt accordingly. This is the time for a businessperson step forward and try new techniques. For example, before the pandemic, a restaurant named Dhauli’s Café used to offer delicious foods with live music. After the lockdown, the owners needed to change their strategy by using an online platform to deliver food to customers. In this situation, employees such as the music performers, dish cleaners, and waiters lost their jobs. The Nepal government demanded that businesses provide salaries to employees but how can a businessperson pay salaries when the business isn’t running? The boss needed to be ruthless and so employees became unemployed.
In countries like Nepal, there are many opportunities to start businesses as the market develops. In the same way, unstable situations of extreme difficulty can be the gateway to rise for creative entrepreneurs; they have an opportunity to use their shrewd minds to learn and grow from the challenges and survive and succeed in business. In spite of all the opportunities, many entrepreneurs are unable to succeed when they fail to understand that they are always serving someone like their business, shareholders and customers. When they lose sight of their goal and let emotions get in the way, for example, when an entrepreneur mixes their business with their personal life, then, using Chaudary’s advice, they will be unable to reach their goal. There are many of these kinds of cases where businesspeople failed during their struggling phase due to a lack of ruthlessness in entrepreneurs in Nepal.
To start a business, an individual gives their sweat and blood but some fail to understand that it is also necessary to be at least a bit ruthless in business. Being human, everyone has emotions and before setting a goal, one must be ready to face hard situations with the capabilities to control emotions when needed. In most cases, especially in a culture like Nepal, an entrepreneur starts his business with the help of family, friends, and siblings, and often if they don’t do their job properly, the bosses tend to keep quiet. They don’t want to upset their relatives or friends by making them feel like they are not doing their job properly. By doing this, indirectly the boss doesn’t give those people the chance to improve their work but instead melts with the emotions which will impact the business’s success.
Businesspeople don’t succeed only because of hard work and dedication, although these are also necessary. Chaudary believes that their ability to make shrewd and ruthless decisions will also play a role, that these are positive attributes for a businessperson. Even if the situation brings barriers in relationships, one must be strong to use their cleverness in the hard air. In the case of Salikram’s apple business, if he hadn’t dared to lower the price of his product for a certain time for the sake of his business, he would have been in a loss and his business would have failed. He achieved profit because he was ruthless and dared to face challenges. Sometimes, being ruthless involves taking risks. When the problems faced by a business are analysed carefully and the tough decisions are made, there will be more successful businesses which can help clear the unemployment and the brain-drain and other problems which are affecting Nepal’s development. In the world, due to the pandemic disease, there has been a huge economic crisis, and many businesses won’t survive as they have been stopped from running while people have been shut in their homes, but at the same time online businesses like Amazon, E-sewa and many more are taking over other businesses by giving their services to customers in creative ways to take the advantage of the current situation. These businesspeople are adapting and using their heads to make challenging decisions to survive and contribute to the success of the new world.
To sum up, to be a successful businessperson needs to sometimes be harsh to make decisions and have the quality of shrewdness. In every situation, they need to stay alert and keep updated about everything that is happening in the market and adapt as needed. They need to understand consumers’ needs and demands and work accordingly, even when these needs change unexpectedly. Ruthlessness and shrewdness are essential skills for businesspeople to succeed. Binod Chaudary, Nepal’s only businessman on Forbe’s list of billionaires, understands these skills. His advice seems even more important to understand and appreciate during these times of pandemic.