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Lessons from the Devil

Updated on April 17, 2016

Devils of Honor

Success has always befriended those who had let their dreams define their fate. Some took a path that confided within the judicial norms while others took a more radical undertaking.

We are always taught to idolize and conform with people who took the so called righteous path to their success with names such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ambani hastily occupy our memory. But we are always told to ignore the ones which seemed off the track from the moral dimension, yet, their methods & achievements are in no way short of a spectacle.

These so called Devils had no control over their dreams but their methods to convert those dreams into reality deserve admiration!

Some men are so driven by their passion that it consumes their imagination. Such intensity sometimes drives them towards the edge of insanity while on, the flipside, it opens the floodgates for sheer genius. Pablo Escobar’s journey from his humble beginnings in Columbia to becoming the most powerful DrugLord in the world in the 1980’s has become part of folklore. Countless books have been written and many documentaries have been made about his notorious, yet, extraordinary exploits, but his creative intellect has been lost somewhere in history. Always aiming to play like a striker looking to beat opponent’s team offside trap, Pablo never left a stone unturned when looking for avant-garde methods to smuggle his product across the western shores. Numerous flights flew in America through well planned & constructed routes to deliver the package with sometimes plane having only pilot’s chair and suitcases of cocaine buried in a hidden compartment to make the plane lighter to allow it to traveler further. In order to avoid capture at landing, merchandise was dropped through parachutes on farms of associates or beaches from where speedboats would carry the same to the shore. To avoid radar of surveillance planes, customs agents were bought through hefty payments. In case of ships, PVC tubes filled with cocaine were attached to the hull of the ships which were then opened by divers to retrieve the merchandise once ships reach the port; when this didn’t work, an ingenious system was created whereby the PVC tubes will be stuck to the hull of the ship through an electromagnet which was turned off at the port to allow the tubes to fall to the bottom and to be picked by the waiting scuba divers. Sometimes the merchandise was mixed with fish flour to be carried in fishing boats. Being a fan of James Bond movies, Pablo was inspired to use submarines to smuggle his products; he in fact manufactured them and since submarines couldn’t reach the shore, divers would pick the merchandise and take them to shore. This method is still being used today. But Pablo’s creative genius wasn’t just limited to transporting his product. When it came to storing the enormous cash he was making, Pablo took innovation to a whole new level. Small hiding places were created in walls of houses where Styrofoam between the sheetrock was used to protect the cash. Probably the most astonishing tricks of all was a fiberglass swimming pool which was half below ground & half above ground; the pool was built on hydraulic lifts with six large spaces underneath where storage chests keep the cash safe and the combination of the pool was only available to few. Pablo Escobar may have been the most notorious drug smuggler ever but he was also perhaps the most ingenious businessman ever!!!

A lot of young impoverished men in India have a secret desire….to live the life of a smuggler where the world is beneath you like sand and you are up like the smoke!!! Haji Mastan Mirza was one such man. Considered the first celebrity gangster of the Mumbai underworld because of his association with Bollywood, Mastan began his odyssey as a boy from the docks in the 1950’s. Mastan’s occupation as a coolie on docks proved to be a blessing in disguise as he identified an opportunity in the import business. A lot of importers looked to evade the import duty to save millions and Mastan realized he could help them out there. He befriended an Arab businessman and started stashing gold biscuits in his headband, watches in his underwear and transistors in his turban which he was able to pull off because of the nature of his job. Soon he started making a lot of quick bucks and caught the attention of the local hoodlums. One of these hoodlums was a pathan who would extort money from the coolies. Mastan’s frustration at this prompted him to convince & inspire the coolies to use their physical strength to overpower the pathan which they eventually did. This was an early sign of Mastan’s suave & influence. With the imposition of prohibition of liquor, Mastan got a tremendous opportunity to get into full form and he became the leader of the coolies. Soon Mastan would become wealthy but, as the shrewd man he was, he looked to forge key partnerships in the city to expand his umpire. Mastan’s philosophy was brilliant; instead of fighting out with the competitors to gain share and allow the cops to exploit it, he conspired up with some of the most influential gangsters of his time and used their muscle to extend his clout. He traded friendship & alliance for bloodshed and used his financial supremacy to get key people at key places on his payroll. Through the acumen of his partner Varda, Mastan was able to develop the ingenious method of “missing cargo”; goods arriving at the docks would become scattered by laborers and identified as misplaced goods or wrong delivered goods for which the importer would file insurance claim and get the insurance money for the value lost. The importer would then share the insurance money with Mastan & his partner & get his cargo at half the price. Insurance companies realized this loophole so they decided to report any such goods as theft. In order to counter this, Mastan & his partney Varda came up with a novel arrangement whereby goods would lay at the docks for so long that insurance company would eventually pay up the money to the importer. To be successful at this, the port customs had to handsomely paid off to allow the goods to lay their places for long. Mastan would eventually get arrested during the emergency imposed in the 70’s, however stories of his shrewdness & aura continues to fascinate the minds of Mumbai.

Backward integration” is a very popular concept in business textbooks. Frank Lucas was one of the few to epitomize this. A heroin dealer who operated in the Harlem during the late 60’s & the 70’s, he became famous for cutting out the middlemen in the drug trade & buying directly from the his main source in the Golden Triangle which is encompassed by Laos, Myanmar & Thailand. His transport strategy has gained mythical status whereby he smuggled his product in the coffins of dead American Servicemen during the Vietnam War. Who the hell is gonna look in a dead soldier's coffin? once boasted Frank. The fact that he got his own connection outside USA and sold his product himself on the streets made him an enigma to the men of the law. Lucas had a defined strategy; only trusts friends & relatives when it came to running the business and dress casually to avoid unnecessary attraction. As they say “The loudest in the room is the weakest”. Frank eventually lost to the USA Drug Enformacement Administration as he was arrested in the 70’s. The fact that he was able to pull of something this extraordinary at that time could put any modern entrepreneur to shame.

All these men were on the wrong side of the law yet, at the end of the day, they were all businessman who took decisions to expand their operations and lookout for competitors. They employed all the tactics that a normal businessman would use: getting the product to the customer at the best price and at the best way possible, cut down costs, make strategic partnerships and keep re-inventing themselves. However, there circumstances were different since they were criminals. Life teaches us so much in so many different ways but we need open our eyes to lessons in every direction.


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