Sun Tzu: War on Business by James Sun

There is a new documentary series currently airing on Channel News Asia called Sun Tzu: War on Business. The name is a twist on the name of the host, James Sun of NBC’s The Apprentice fame (James was the first Asian to reach the final).

The premise of the show is simple: In each episode, he would visit a different Asian city and help a company with their business problems. With the assistance of a local expert, he would analyse the company using strategies from the famous ancient Chinese general.

I have been recording the series on my StarHub HDD recorder, but only started watching it after I signed up for the James Sun seminar in Singapore.

Mumbai’s Digital Academy

One recent episode I watched was filmed in Mumbai, India. Digital Academy was a film school which had capacity for 1200 students but current enrolment was only half of that. Classrooms and studios were empty in the day, being utilised only in the evenings.

The challenge for the company was to maximise the capacity by doubling their intake of students. Their target segment was young people, who could attend classes in the day.

James spent some time observing the business in operation, and interviewing staff and students. His conclusion was that the the school offered a solid product but the marketing wasn’t up to scratch. After all, perception is reality.

Once the school could get prospective students past the gates, they would likely sign up for the course. The challenge was attracting them there in the first place.

He identified two places for improvement:

1. Website

The website was their primary marketing tool. However, the design was conventional and contained too much text. For a film school wanting to attract creative people, the lack of videos was particularly jarring.

A section of students portfolios would be a highly effective testimonial to the school’s program.

2. Signboard

The signboard at the entrance of the school was too small and didn’t explain what kind of company Digital Academy was.

You can see that it is not rocket science. Once identified, problems are usually relatively easy to solve. The real challenge is getting the business owner to accept it.

The advice was given in a diplomatic way. Entrepreneurs put in your heart and soul into their businesses, and having the flaws pointed out can be a very bitter pill to swallow. James likened it to using a mirror for some honest self-reflection.

James used video clips to help put his point across in an objective and neutral manner. Especially effective were video interviews of students. After all, the customer is always correct.

But did the company take his advice?

1. Website

The owner of the school, Mr Kartikeya, decided to enlist the help of his students by having them produce marketing videos using the school’s own equipment. A neat idea but the couple of clips shown in the episode weren’t exactly of professional standard.

Would it have been better hire a professional videographer instead?

The website URL was originally When I checked it out after the episode aired, it had moved to

A quick WHOIS check showed that the new URL was registered in May 2009. A nice funky name to appeal to the younger crowd.

However, the new website was still densely packed with words, and at first, I still couldn’t see any video clips. Finally, buried deep inside the website, were links to their YouTube channel and company blog (which was started in June 2009).

Try and see if you could find them.

Why go to all the trouble to create these new marketing channels but not make them accessible to the visitors? It would have been helpful to create prominent links to them.

2. Signboard

I couldn’t tell from the photos on the website whether the signboard has been changed.


James might be able to point out the right strategy for the company, but implementing the right tactics is another hurdle to clear. This would take more time than James had on his whirlwind tour of Asia.

I’ll be discussing future episodes of the Sun Tzu: War on Business series, so do check back here for updates. You can also subscribe by email or RSS.

About Hun Boon

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.
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3 Responses to Sun Tzu: War on Business by James Sun

  1. Chung Evan says:


    I have been searhing the episode of Sun tzu war on business for so long and couldn’t find it at internet. Do you know where can i find the video?

  2. Tim says:

    I saw this show in a Malaysian airport and have been searching for it ever since. Excellent show!

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