By Hari Venkatacharya
On April 16, 2010 the great visionary, influencer and management guru C. K. Prahalad passed away in his San Diego home at the age of 68. Many Canadians may not have heard of CK, but he was a world class thinker, originally from Coimbatore, India.
I had the distinct privilege of spending time with him on a few occasions, due to his great influence in TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), especially during my tenure as President of the Toronto Chapter. Each time we met, he was generous with his ideas, and genuinely engaged in the dialogue to explore new paradigms and business models. His most enduring quality will be the fact that he tried throughout his life to operationalize his vision and philosophy so that those who traditionally had been forgotten would have the opportunity to succeed, within a model that was indigenous while globally effective.
CK’s broad range of interests went from management consulting to innovation and co-creation, and finally to the ‘Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’, his path-breaking book that clearly delineated the need for global corporations to pay attention to emerging markets, since that is where the bulk of the world’s population lived and worked, and that is where, he predicted, the most aggressive growth would occur.
What he could not predict was the speed that his revolutionary ideas would be embraced, both by governments and corporations. Whether it was by large global companies like Philips, who started targeting their products to developing markets, or to Hindustan Lever which accelerated its thrust into the rural Indian market by introducing further sales of shampoos and soaps in individual sachets, so that those customers would not have to pay to inventory product.
The BRIC countries primarily took great hold of CK’s ideas, and embraced them extensively, enabling new business models and opportunities for revenue generation, for those who could not traditionally participate in economic growth.
Fundamentally, CK will be most missed for his generousity of spirit, his monumental insights into how to enable the masses of humanity to prosper and his constant curiousity and thirst for knowledge. There is much that Canadian companies can learn from the work of C. K. Prahalad.
There is a wonderful tribute in The Economist that you may find of interest: