C.K. Prahalad Centre for Emerging India inaugurated at LIBA on the occasion of late management guru’s 70th birth anniversary on August 8
Little would have Principal Fr. Lawrence Sundaram imagined that a student of PUC and B.Sc. from Loyola College would become one of India’s treasured sons, creating meaningful impact on the lives of people he touched, the businesses he advised, the students he guided, the peers he jostled with, and the country he was fiercely patriotic about. The late Prof. C.K. Prahalad had bequeathed not only the thought of developed India or Indian businesses going global through his sagacious vision that forecast future, not with flimsy imagination but with real-time data and analysis, but also a mind that thought of possibilities far into the future, a future, in the late management guru’s hearts of hearts, should belong to India.
Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), founded in 1979, has now established a C.K. Prahalad Institute of Emerging India on the occasion of the late management guru’s 70th birth anniversary, which falls on 8 August. Mr. M.K. Narayanan, Governor of West Bengal and former National Security Advisor, inaugurated the centre amidst the august company of those Prof. C.K. Prahalad had deep connections with and those whom he impacted through his intellect and books, in the presence of Mrs. Gayathri Prahalad, wife of the late professor and Deepa Prahalad, his daughter. Mr. Narayanan, himself an alumnus of Loyola, paid glowing tributes to Prof. C.K. Prahalad, perhaps with a touch of poignancy, adding a sense of loss at missing the wise counsel of the late management guru when India needs it most, at the time when Indian economy is slowing down and an inclusive growth remaining a distant dream that is debated in academic circles, talked about a lot in different fora, but still short of meaningful action from policymakers. Core competence, strategic intent, dominant logic and the most impactful of all, fortune at the base of the pyramid – all Prof. C.K. Prahalad’s management vision or the result of his labour – has not remained within the narrow confines of management discipline or academia, but has spawned many disciplines and is now deeply ingrained in the consciousness of the nation itself and the world at large. Mr. Narayanan, not a management student, stood to gain from Prof. Prahalad’s wisdom in all these spheres and he quoted Prof. Prahalad’s publication on how dominant logic blinds an organization from looking beyond the borders of its industry and geography from finding new opportunities and rethinking the logic of business.
To his friends and students and his immediate close circle, he was fondly known as CK. Venketrama Raju, MD and CEO of Ramco Systems, narrated his close association with CK and how he taught that disruption could overcome resource constraints in establishing a vibrant business that would have the strength to take on giants in the business. The CEO Forum that CK instituted to interact with top CEOs in the country was the starting point of Venketrama Raju’s connection with CK. More than resources, the vision and aspirations of the CEO drive the organization to its heights, in CK’s opinion.
Prof. Bala Balachandran, ex tempore and a touch emotional, recalled how CK inspired many thinkers of management but CK himself was inspired by Bala as Bala stepped out of IIM-A to pursue higher studies in the United States. “India is not anymore an emerging country,” declared Prof. Bala, five years senior to CK. He said CK’s memory and legacy would lead to Indian business competing for anywhere in the world, with resources from any part of the world, and for any geography.
The late professor’s wife, Mrs. Gayathri, started with a dignified tone enlisting stellar qualities of Prof. Prahalad as a human being and how he involved his son, daughter and herself in debates about the papers he wrote during his formative years in the academic world. She recalled how the student’s conversations with the professor would extend into the dining table if not closed at the appointed time and the felicity with which the late professor could engage in meaningful conversations with heads of state at the same time in a small talk with the cab driver. A sense of loss took over and her voice was turning a bit shaky and she closed before she could have broken down, stating, “when we count our blessings, we count the times he lived with us.”
Gopal Srinivasan, MD, TVS Capital, instrumental in establishing the centre [and perhaps doing his bit as a student to mark the legacy of CK was also behind naming the CII South Zone office at Chennai as C.K. Prahalad Centre], said democratization of commerce and fortune at the base of the pyramid were perhaps the two concepts that came to his mind in remembering CK. In perhaps a life-changing speech at a CII event to mark India@60, CK proposed a vision for India@75, calling for sampoorna azadi through entrepreneurs as freedom fighters. India at present needs massive doses of innovations and Prahaladisms would help foster innovation, felt Mr. Gopal Srinivasan, a student of CK at the Michigan University.
Prof. Casimir Raj expanded upon the vision of the centre in creating social impact in enabling sustained development of the poor through technology development, economic growth and moral leadership. Prof. Jay Amaran, part of the Association of Indian Educators in the US (AIEUS), said that the association in which Prof. Prahalad was a cofounder, would donate $1 million to the centre and $2 million for social entrepreneurship. Prof. Amaran has been instrumental in involving close associates of Prof. Prahalad in the US with the LIBA’s C.K. Prahalad Emerging India Centre.
K.V. Kamath, Chairman of Infosys and ICICI, paid a moving tribute to Prof. Prahalad, whom he looked upon first, then took him as his teacher, and finally Prof. Prahalad became his friend. The difference that the late management guru made to Mr. Kamath’s learning is huge through the CEO Forum. Even greater impact was Prof. Prahalad asking Mr. Kamath to look at ATMs as a technology lever to overcome resource constraints of banking. This lead to ICICI establishing 1000 ATMs a year when there were hardly 100 ATMs in the whole country. Mr. Kamath said how the late professor asked him to link ATMs through satellite links rather than broadband or dedicated line connectivity. This helped in 90% or more of uptimes. Prof. Prahalad’s ability to think far into the future is evident by his analytical mind. He said the Centre should focus on removing emerging from its name and rename it emerged.
Dr. Sridhar Mitta, one of the founders of TiE, had 20 years of association with Prof. Prahalad. He recalled Prof. Prahalad’s contribution in resolving a dispute between TiE Global and its other chapters and in setting a new course for TiE, which led to democratization of its functioning. TiE was born out of conversations at the airport between eminent Indian entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley waiting for the arrival of Mr. N. Vittal, whose flight was delayed.
Mr. R. Gopalan, Secretary to Government of India on Economic Affairs, said that the takeaways from the late professor for him would be challenging settled wisdom and thinking of unconventional ways to solve problems. This stood in good stead for him during the construction of TIDEL Park in Chennai in which he was involved.
Prof. Sebasti L. Raj, Prominent Superior of Jesuits in Tamil Nadu, was proud that the values propagated by the Jesuit institute of leaving a campus as not a person with what was acquired at classrooms but in growing into a sensitive human being was exemplified by Prof. Prahalad.
D. Sivakumar, Vice President and MD of Nokia India, explained the impact Prof. Prahalad had on his thinking although he was not closely associated with the late professor. Core competence, competing for the future and cocreating value with the customer were all novel and insightful when Prof. Prahalad proposed it a decade before they became reality. He also said how Prof. Prahalad’s focus on fixed cost made a difference to business. Recalling his exchanges with Prof. Prahalad, Sivakumar said how his data on shampoos were incorporated into the late professor’s book. Perhaps the greatest impact on him and Nokia was the publication of Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. This led businesses to look at not 1 million customers but at 5 million customers and the impact was felt across in all big companies.
Many speakers dwelt upon Prof. C.K. Prahalad’s contribution in creating impact in their businesses and thinking. The trajectory of Prof. Prahalad’s thinking slowly moved from strategic thinking at the organizational level into sustainable development by impacting the lives of the poor to nation building through entrepreneurs. Prof. Prahalad has succeeded in his mission of national awakening not by occupying positions of power but by wisdom and foresight deeply entrenched in national consciousness and patriotism that was the dominant and driving force supplemented by his strategic management vision and academic wisdom accumulated over the years. He is a true role model for youngsters in using whatever we are gifted with to give back to the nation.