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June 21, 2024

The art, science and discipline of business negotiations explained by business stalwarts

Twinkle Dharmani

Whether we realise it or not, we are all constantly negotiating with different people all the time. What differentiates us from the industry leaders is that they understand the skill to negotiate as an art, science and discipline.
Bhaskar Bhatt- Chairman, Vistara, Rakesh Biyani- Joint MD, Future Group, Supreme Court Counsel Rohan Shah and Ashish Bhasin- CEO, Aegis Dentsu discussed the art of negotiation with moderator Biren Vaidya- MD, Rose Group.
Biren Vaidya- MD, Rose Group
Biren Vaidya- MD, Rose Group
This discussion was a part of Mindspeak, a series of webinars that aim to inspire and bring positivity to individuals during the lockdown.
The best way to learn this art is by “getting insights into the human mind,” says Bhasin. “For example, Russians were some of the best negotiators, particularly during the Cold War. In those days, the Americans would go to Moscow and put themselves in the best suites. The Russians were very smart and kept them engaged in wining and dining for almost two and a half out of those three days. They would begin the official discussions only when the Americans would be in a hurry to close the deal and go back. While the Russians on the other hand, when they went to the USA, would book an apartment for almost three months even though it was a mere three days affair, which would let the Americans believe that their counterpart is here to get the best deal they can. Hence, it’s about finding the human insight and having that much patience, which only comes with discipline,” he concludes.
Ashish Bhasin- CEO, Aegis Dentsu India
Ashish Bhasin- CEO, Aegis Dentsu India
Now obviously, Rome wasn’t built in a day and when asked about some exercises to practice to hone your skills as a master negotiator, Rakesh talked about how he practices it by reflecting on his past negotiations and discussions and how he felt at that point in time. He says, “It’s important that the other party also feels satisfied after the negotiations. It wouldn’t be a good negotiation if one of the two sides has lost. The more you value the other side, the more are the chances that you get a better deal.”
At this point, Biren asked Bhaskar, former MD of Tata Group’s Titan jewellery, how he prepares for a meeting. As his answer, Bhaskar draws from his experience, “Titan was getting into a very big deal with a company. We researched the person negotiating on behalf of the other company, who wanted to close the deal at ₹18 crores, and we, at Titan, wanted to reduce the price as much as possible. The research revealed that the man speaking on their behalf was to be transferred to another organisation in the next three months and hence it was a matter of maintaining a record that he ‘successfully closed’ a deal. After identifying his objective and having discussed quite a bit, I gave him my final offer and asked him to do the same, which put the ball in his court and made him feel empowered in a way.”
To conclude the session, Rohan Shah said that he believes that the purpose of negotiations should not just be commercial but should also aim to establish a friendship, respect and goodwill. He talked about how India, from 1994 to 2000 was seen as a disruptor in World Trade Organisation discussions, where we would raise an objection to almost any proposed idea. Heads of almost 142 countries would showcase a standoffish body-language every time we raised a concern, which was changed by Arun Jaitley at an event once.
The event in question was a discussion at WTO about food security and agricultural interests. Jaitley decided to lead the conversation, which he concluded by saying “I urge everybody in this room that you have a unique power to shape what will happen to human beings for the next 10 years. Let us not make this about your nation and my nation, but about the people of the world. And if this negotiation is about the people, then it is high time that we start listening to the developing countries of this world.” In this speech of about three-minutes duration, he first touched upon the vanity of every decision-maker who felt their power to influence mankind while also putting forward an irresistible deal.
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