The Sun Tzu Guide to Competitive Analysis

Outmaneuvering competition with strategy, wit, and careful planning

Abhishek Chakravarty
11 min readAug 20, 2021


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On my first day as Product Manager at a Fortune 200 Industrial company, a top leader of the company presented me with an English audiobook of “The Art of War”.

The Art of War. I’d never heard of the book before — but found the title to be intriguing. It is a military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu (孙子) , a celebrated military strategist in ancient China.

Why would you ask a new PM to read a military account? I thought.

Anyway, I began to listen to the audiobook on my commutes to and from work. And as the book unraveled, I learnt that Sun Tzu’s book was less to do with military and battles, and more to do with strategies and tactics on competing and winning, — not by force, but by careful planning.

Turns out, while the book itself talks about military backdrops and references of war, the ideas in the book have been widely used in modern business. In fact for many years The Art of War has been a required reading for executives in Chinese & Japanese companies, as well as within longstanding titans of corporate America.

In the 13 or so chapters of the book, Sun Tzu lays out strategies on how to think about competition, when and where to compete and how to outmaneuver competition with Philosophy, Wit and Careful planning — without the need for actual combat.

Keeping Competition at bay

The Products that we build are our most important weaponry in this metaphorical “war” of business competition. But we must know how to use our weapons, Sun Tzu says.

While the philosophy of modern Product management — “Focus on your customers” — cannot be argued against, we must not be naïve to competitive events around us.