Chanakya Radhakrishnan’s Secrets to Prolific Book Writing
Kiruba: Hi there! If you’re here, there’s a good chance that you’re interested in becoming an author or you’re already one. Good choice because this is one of the very few dedicated podcast shows that is meant for aspiring authors. This is where you can learn from bestselling global authors on how they made it successful in book writing. This podcast is supported by Notion Press, one of India’s largest publishing houses. It is also home to over 40,000 members, who are passionate about their written work. In today’s episode, our guest is someone who is absolutely obsessed and crazy about Chanakya – the famed Indian philosopher and a royal adviser. Radhakrishnan Pillai is the Founder Director of Chanakya Institute of Public Leadership – a research based organisation that is working to promote Indian concepts in management. Radhakrishnan Pillai is better known as Chanakya Pillai because almost all his books and teachings are centred around the famed Indian philosopher. He is a certified management consultant with over 20 years of experience and has trained professionals in over 200 organizations. He is the Director of SPM Foundation and Founder Director of Atma Darshan – a spiritual tourism company. He has been awarded the prestigious Sardar Patel International Award for his research and contribution in the field of management and industrial development. Let’s now listen to Chanakya Radhakrishnan Pillai.
Kiruba: Radhakrishnan, thank you so much for coming on this show and first of all, I love your fascination for Chanakya.
Radhakrishnan: Thank you. Thank you so much, Kiruba for making me part of this podcast and it’s a pleasure to get connected to all the listeners over here.
Kiruba: Not only you are the director of the Chanakya Institute of Public Relationships, you’ve authored multiple books using Chanakya as the central theme. In fact, your email id has the word Chanakya in it. So, can you explain to us why do you have such fascination for Chanakya?
Radhakrishnan: Actually, everybody would have a fascination for a person like Chanakya. The only difference is that I tried to do a little bit more in-depth to understand who this great person Chanakya was. So long in the Indian history, there have been various heroes and heroines, of course, who have changed and made a mark in our history and have impacted thought processes worldwide. Among those stalwarts, one of them is of course Chanakya. So, like anybody in India, I’ve heard about him and came to know a little bit about him. But then I started doing a little bit of a research on his book called Kautilya’s Arthashastra and that’s where I started understanding the person much more in detail, his thought process, his teachings, and his knowledge in detail. By that time, you get more and more interested that you start realising that wow, there’s this great particular person, who has been totally unexplored in our generation. So, my fascination is only growing day by day and it continues even today. So, be it my email id or be it whatever I do, the name Chanakya has become so one with me that probably I think, eat, and drink Chanakya every time.
Kiruba: Interesting! Very interesting. Now, suppose a foreigner, who does not know about Indian mythology, and if he came and asked you who was Chanakya, what would be your simple explanation?
Radhakrishnan: That’s typically what I do in my travels abroad. These foreigners always like to have a much more background of the person whom they are discussing and talking about. So, my first typical introduction will be a historical character, who lived in the fourth century BC in India. He was a kingmaker, strategist, etc., of an empire and a student called Chandragupta Maurya and finally I would go on to tell that he was a great author who wrote the book Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
Kiruba: Got it. Talking of books, you’ve authored multiple books. Can you tell us about how many books you’ve authored, sir?
Radhakrishnan: So, I have already and published three books and I am currently writing eighteen different books on Chanakya.
Kiruba: What! Did you say eighteen? [Laughs]
Radhakrishnan: Yes! one-eight eighteen and I think that is just still the tip of the iceberg.
Kiruba: Wow! This is no longer fascination for Chanakya. This is obsession.
Radhakrishnan: [Laughs] I would say this is research which is just coming out with so many multiple dimensions.
KIruba: Very interesting. Your first book – Corporate Chanakya – is a bestseller. In fact, it is actually used as a reference book in many business schools. I am a professor in a couple of B-schools as well. So, it is very fascinating. In fact, it is so fascinating that the book was actually made into an audio book as well. So, let’s begin there. How did your first journey into authoring begin?
Radhakrishnan: So, a lot of people tell stories about they want to author a book and you know they write a book and then find a publisher. In my case, it has been extremely opposite. The publishers actually found me and they asked me to write a book. So, let me tell you the story. It so happened that I’ve been speaking on Chanakya for quite a few years – almost fifteen years now. And then what happened was in one of the talks that I was doing in the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, I was speaking on Arthashastra. A group of people came and said, “Oh, you speak on Chanakya. Can you write on Chanakya?” Then I said, “What does it mean?” They said, “We are a publishing company called Jaico. We know that you have the subject expertise. We don’t mind publishing your book if you can give some book in return form. We will be happy to publish that. So, while most of the author write the books and then find publishers, for me, I actually got the publisher first and then I started writing. So, in that way, I would say that I’ve been an author who has been blessed by God to actually write bestsellers even before I thought I should write a book and make it a bestseller.
Kiruba: Look at that! The whole world is conspiring to make you good.
Radhakrishnan: And thanks to friends like you, who make me famous also.
Kiruba: Very true. That’s very interesting, you know, you said that you are truly blessed and that’s the blessing that not many are gifted that way. But one important lesson I can get from you is that if you are really passionate about a subject and if you really go in-depth into a subject, that itself is an invitation for success, right? It’s because of your obsession and your depth of knowledge about Chanakya – that has what made the publishers reach out to you. Correct? So, the lesson is that, everybody has an area of interest and if they can really excel in that area, I think that’s a great route for them to get invited by the publishers. Would you agree?
Radhakrishnan: Absolutely. Absolutely. Today is an era of super-specialisation. So, if you have a niche area in which you have an expertise and probably, you know, you are mould for it then I think you attract not only publishers, I mean, for me, it was like going into depth of Chanakya and everything else came in as a byproduct.
Kiruba: Now that you’ve authored books, how do you think the books have helped you in your professional space?
Radhakrishnan: So, let me tell you that there are three books that I’ve already written. I’ll talk about my eighteen books later on. So, my first book was Corporate Chanakya; the second book was Chanakya – The Seven Secrets of Leadership and the third was Chanakya in You. Now all these put together, I have officially sold, when I say I have sold, I mean the whole sales figure has crossed more than 3.5 lakh copies.
Radhakrishnan: Now, I am only talking about the official figures. More than double of their figures have been sold as pirated copies also. So, what has happened in my case is that the books being bestsellers and it has been able to reach a wide level of audience, especially, in the corporate world and the academic world. There is an Indian-ness to the word Chankya in the person called Chanakya. So, what has happened is that when people started reading the book, books are not like newspaper articles, they store it, they display it, they keep it on the shelves, and they refer to it. So, what has happened is that my first book came in the year 2010 and from 2010 onward, it has been a journey where it has helped me reach out to more than hundreds and thousands of organisations. I’ve directly spoken to more than one lakh people. I’ve travelled fourteen countries. So, if you look at it, you know, these books have made me to reach out to maximum people, professionally and also as a mission to spread Chanakya.
Kiruba: Brilliant. In fact, when you said that your books are pirated;
Radhakrishnan: Am I audible?
Kiruba: Yes, you are. In fact, I have seen your books being sold by pavement dwellers and these are people who would sell pirated books. In my opinion, seeing your book out there is the ultimate show that you have arrived, right? Because only good books are pirated!
Radhakrishnan: Yeah. There’s a saying in Hindi – Akal ki nakal hoti hai. This means only which is good gets duplicated. So, I am fortunate to write a few books and they have all been pirated and have become bestsellers.
Kiruba: Very nice. Very happy for you. Now, let’s talk about your next eighteen books that is absolutely fascinating.
Radhakrishnan: So, my next eighteen books, out of which four books have already been completed and I am currently writing the fifth book. All of them will come in less than one year’s time. So, let me give you an idea of this next five books. The first book that is getting ready is called Katha Chanakya. There are thirty stories of Chanakya teaching strategies to his students like Chandragupta Maurya. This book is going to be very different from my previous book. In fact, all of my books are different from each other. So, the next book called Katha Chanakya has got thirty small, small stories which are something can be read by a family, a child, a father, a grandfather, even an academic teacher, a scholar, or even corporate guy. But there are wisdom that have been derived from these stories like the Akbar Birbal kind of the sotries. The next book that I’ve written is called Chanakya in Daily Life. Chanakya in Daily Life is an interesting book because I had simplified Chanakya to the masses of what can be done using Chanakya’s techniques on a day-to-day basis. Be it as an individual, a family person, or a professional, there are various steps like what time to get up in the morning, what to do, what kind of an attitude you should have at your workplace, how you should bring up your children, and more. These are small, simple tips but they are very essential that we can practice in day-to-day basis. The third book that I have just completed is called Anvikshiki – the Science of Thinking. So, it’s a different book, again. It’s called Inside Chanakya’s mind – the Art of Thinking and the fourth book that I have completed is called A Rajarishi – the Ideal King according to Chanakya. The fifth book that I am writing is again very different and first time I am trying a non-Chanakya book. It is called How to Write a Book and make it a Bestseller. So, if you look at it, I am trying very different possibilities of Chanakya and also people want me to share how I write books and how I make it a bestseller. So, there are five different offerings coming up this particular year. Apart from that, I am writing eight textbooks, which are basically for academic reasons because I am also a professor and teacher at the University of Mumbai and I head a department which is introducing leadership as a subject. So, these next eight books are basically for academic purposes and textbooks on Arthashastra. And of course, the remaining will be other types like the concept of Rajamandala theory, 365 days Chanakya, etc. There is a huge offering that’s coming up in the next one and two years.
Kiruba: Absolutely fascinating, you know this brings me lots of questions to ask you.
Radhakrishnan: For sure!
Kiruba: The most important one is how the hell can you be so prolific? And let me tell you that, right, Â the reason I am asking this is because many of us who are listening to this podcast struggle to bring out a single book. When you’re here, you’re so matter-of-factly saying you’re working on eighteen books as if you just ordered ignitor the strong. [Laughs] So, explain that.
Radhakrishnan: So, first of all, let me also add that I am not a full-time author either.
Kiruba: Well, that was my suspicion, right? Only a full-time author, who can really spend so much time; a little later I also wanted to quiz you on how do you manage your time. But first, yeah, please go ahead.
Radhakrishnan: So, my point is basically, it is not whether you are a full-time author or a part-time author that you write so many kinds of books. I know a lot of my friends, who are full-time authors but, you know, they struggle to write one or two books a year also. So, I will tell you the secret of writing multiple books. The first secret is that you should do a lot of research on your subject. That is very, very essential. Please note that my books are not fiction books; they are very, very researched-based books and as you rightly pointed out, they are used as academic textbooks in various business schools and management institutions in India and abroad. So, one of the central themes of all my books, even though I use stories and anecdotes, is there is a lot of research that has gone into that. So, what has happened is that if you are writing so many books, you need to have a thorough knowledge on the subject. There are a lot of people who write fiction books and I like them but, you know, those are imaginary books. But this is imagination plus research. So, number one is that you need to have a lot of solid research base. I have been doing that for the last 15 years. Somewhere the content has been there with me throughout. The next part is that it’s like going to a supermarket, where there are hundreds of options available to us. So, your mind, your research, and your knowledge base have to be like a supermarket, where you have 10,000 things ready to choose from. Depending on what you want, it’s like carrying a basket in the supermarket and you know I want twenty different kinds of biscuits with the ten thousand available. So, you just pick and choose and put into one box. Then the next box is you pick and choose some soaps and toothpaste and in the next box, you pick and choose probably some vegetables and fruits. So, that’s the kind of a thing that I do. You know, I have done a study on the 6,000 sutras of the Arthashastra. I have done my Ph.D, I guide students and teachers. You know the knowledge base has been very much available to me in a very broad term. So, when a book has to be written, the good part is that each book is 250-300 pages. So, you have to just 6,000 sutras, you have to bring out a little bit and convert them into 250 pages. So, that’s not really difficult.
Kiruba: Interesting. So, what you are saying is that I really like the analogy – the supermarket analogy. Over a period of time, as and when you get ideas, when you put them in the right basket; in this case, each basket is a book and that’s how you fill up materials for all these books. Once you have your research done, you just have to jump into the writing part as such.
Radhakrishnan: Absolutely. So, writing is the smallest part that you do. I would say if you’ve to write a book, I think writing just takes 5% of the time. The research, the reading, and the thinking, those are what that take you know the real 95% of the time.
Kiruba: Wow! I think this is the biggest takeaway from me and I think this will be the biggest takeaway for everyone who is listening to the podcast. It’s the absolute emphasis on research and its time very well spent. That’s the biggest takeaway. Now, talk to me about how you manage time. You have a full-time job and I see you are traveling as well. Tell me about how you manage.
Radhakrishnan: Yeah, so it’s simple. I do multiple things. In fact, I don’t work at Mumbai University as a job. I am a full-time faculty as an ordinary person who believes that teaching is more a passion for me. So, I have a responsibility of being a deputed director at the Chanakya courses that we do at Mumbai University. I run multiple business, I do talks, seminars, I write books, I run quite a few business also. But what is very common is that everything that I do, I look at probably you know on a mission to do [Sentence lost in editing]. So, what I do is that inspite of all my busy schedule, I make it a point that I write for at least one hour a day. So, sometimes, it goes up to three hours, sometimes its one hour, and sometimes its half an hour because it’s the regular discipline of everyday writing a few pages on a daily basis. So, 365 days you think about you know you have spent 600 hours of writing. So, that’s the way saying that small, small bits actually add up. There’s a saying that if you want to get work done, give it to the most busiest man. When somebody wants me to write a book, I immediately say yes. I look at the project and manage the time schedules and I can bring out a book in a matter of one or one and a half month as per the requirement as well. So, time management, the discipline, and making sure your content in research is strong.
Kiruba: Yes. So, two important takeaways that I found. One is developing a habit of daily writing and the second one is invest at least one or two hours a day and in a year, suddenly it balloons up to a large number. You know, 600 hours is quite a lot for an author and you can actually give this done without having to really over-straining yourself. How do you manage to make sure that a lot of people buy your book. It is very impressive that together you’ve sold over 3.5 lakh books and because you go and speak at a lot of places, people would listen to it and be interesting in buying the book. But apart from these, are there any other marketing techniques that has really worked for you?
Radhakrishnan: Yeah, I think every author has to know two things – one is the writing part and the second is the sales and marketing part of it. And unlike a movie, which is marketed only on the day of the release, or maybe one month around that, we need to market for at least one or one and a half years per book. I believe that once you’ve got a book, you need to be on the road and be talking to people, it is available for me, be it my publisher’s sales person, be it the bookstores like Crosswords and Landmarks and Sapnas. So, what I do is I spend a lot of quality time with them, trying to make them understand the quality of the books. I build relationships first and of course, I am very active on the social media like Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube. So, I would say that on an average, at least, every day I would be having three to four different meetings where my books are discussed, the strategies of Chanakya discussed, and indirectly what happens is that it creates a word-of-mouth publicity. So, let’s say I am sitting in the University and speak about my book. If I’m giving a lecture, I speak about my book. If I’m writing an email, there would be a mention about the book. If I’m posting something on Facebook or Twitter, there will be something about the book. So, continuously create an ecosystem, where everybody who connects to you will be at least discussing about the book. So, over a period of time, it’s like the snowball – the first day you do it, the second day you do it, imagine you’re doing it for a complete whole one year. So, what happens is it creates a momentum and a ripple effect that everybody is talking about it. Let me give you one example – last year, I did hundred launches of one book called Chanakya in You, which is my third book. Hundred physical launches of a single author; it’s almost like a world-record.
Kiruba: Wow! That is absolutely super impressive.
Radhakrishnan: Actually, it’s not a book of the past, it’s a very light book. So, I think every author should be able to make sure of two roles – one is the writing part of it and marketing part of it. We need to balance both.
Kiruba: Excellent! So, one last question before we wrap up. Do you have a big number as a goal in life? You know, I want to author X number of books in my lifetime. Do you have such kind of goals?
Radhakrishnan: Yeah, yeah! I already discussed with my publishers, which is 400 books.
Kiruba: [Laughs] Wow! You are very, very impressive. And I love the fact with what confidence you say that. I don’t believe you.
Radhakrishnan: I will tell you, it’s very logical. It’s not that I am throwing off some numbers. I worked out. I got already 300 of those books ready in my mind. The thing that the remaining 100 will happen. I know it’s very practical because I am 40 years old and in the next 20 or 25 years, I can easily write 400 books. So, that’s not really a problem.
Kiruba: Wow! That is like, I am like, absolutely stunned and I am equally impressed as well. So, I think this is probably most unique interview with any author around the world that I have had. I have to tell you that you are an absolutely impressive person. Thank you for the rubbing off that intensity and the passion. Really, it has been such a pleasure.
Radhakrishnan: Thank you so much, Kiruba. I am so happy to have been part of this particular interview.
Kiruba: Excellent. Thank you so much.
Radhakrishnan: Thank you. Bye!