Competitive Intelligence – Lessons from the Army

The session seeks to bring an entirely new perspective by presenting a real-life case study of a major competitive intelligence failure. In 1999, the Indian Army was blindsided due to infirmities in its handling of Competitive Intelligence, leading to an expensive war on the heights of Kargil. The analysis of the failure of the intelligence to predict throws up several macro lessons that are completely applicable to the business environment. The presentation aims at underscoring those lessons, keeping the fact of applicability to the world of the business firmly in its sights.

The nine conclusions point to the challenges and solutions to several aspects of Competitive Intelligence e.g. its primacy in the Organizational Structure, the perennial problem of ‘turf wars’, over-reliance on the ‘sexiness’ of data as opposed to analysis leading to tangible action agenda, dealing with asymmetrical environment (say, dealing with disruptions caused by start-ups), preventing strategic blindness and developing a culture for Competitive Intelligence.    


The Armed Forces treat Competitive Intelligence with far greater focus and diligence that the corporate sector, especially in the Indian context. There is a strong case to learn from the wins (and failures), orientation and culture of the Armed Forces. Having held key positions on both sides of the aisle (Major General in the Army and CEO in the corporate), I firmly believe that, at the conceptual and operational levels, there is seamless connectivity between the two.

My session is based on a real-life operational failure attributed completely to Competitive Intelligence. It is a riveting account that will attract the audience and bring a macro perspective from practitioners of Competitive Intelligence from another professional organization – the Indian Army. 

Speaker profile

Neeraj Bali is a veteran of the Indian Army, Gen Bali served in several operational areas and roles including as CO of an anti-terrorist battalion and key staff officer handling intelligence and counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir. He was also Security Advisor to the Government of Lesotho. 

An M.Sc and M Phil, he is also an alumnus of the Asia Pacific Centre of Security Studies, USA.

He has spoken extensively, including on CI at SCIP Annual Conference,  (Atlanta), SCIP European Summit, (Cascais) and Tata Sons’ CXO Conference, (Mumbai). Also, at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and several companies on the Future of Leadership, Risk and Organizational Culture, currently his Ph D subject.

He has been CEO of an organization running 92 colleges and schools. Later he was the CEO of a leading Engineering Consultancy Company in India. After a sabbatical, he is now Head Corporate Affairs and HR of the company.

Interview with the speaker