A guru who saw into the Future – CK Prahalad

By | Ramesh Ranjan | Founder & Editor

On the occasion of his Birth Anniversary (8 August 1941), we take a look at how CK Prahalad had the innate ability to Look into the Future.

CK Prahalad was an influential global business thinker, a trusted adviser to political leaders in India & many other Countries and one of the most beloved teachers at the University of Michigan. Prahalad was twice ranked the world’s most influential business thinker in 2007 and 2009, by the “Thinkers 50”—a list of the top 50 management thought leaders in the world published by the leadership consulting firm Crainer Dearlove. In 2009, he was named Padma Bhushan ‘third in the hierarchy of civilian awards’ by the Government of India.

He was popularly known as a “Management Guru”. He was insightful and provocative at times. Many a times he was thinking way ahead of the crowd. He was an interesting combination of an academic and a practitioner. His thought process got formulated by observing businesses in action and his ideas altered many a business and paved the way for many others.

He has propounded many theories in Management:

  • Core Competence
  • Dominant Logic
  • Strategic Intent
  • Bottom of the Pyramid
  • Emerging Economies
  • Co-creation

His theory on Core Competence helped many a Organisation to refocus on their Core Competence rather than be swayed and drifting on Diversified business ideas.

He was a vociferous advocate of seeing the Poor as an Opportunity rather than a Problem and foresaw a huge opportunity at the Bottom of the Pyramid for Countries & Organisations.

Many an organisation was adopting a Company- centric value creation and taking on the mantle of Innovation and felt that innovation was the sole responsibility of the Producer. He along with Venkat Ramaswamy showed that if Organisations work along with the consumer, they can together Co-Create a better solution for the customer.

He has authored & co-authored many bestsellers which are widely used as a Bible in many B Schools:

  • The Core Competence of the Corporation – with Gary Hamel
  • Competing for the Future – with Gary Hamel
  • The Future of Competition – with Venkat Ramaswamy
  • The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits
  • The New Age of Innovation – with MS Krishnan

Besides numerous award winning articles & papers in leading management journals.

He was a popular Guru and CEO’s listened to him with rapt attention & interest since he was thought provocative and incisive. He was concerned about India and its problems. He foresaw India as a potential world power among the emerging economies long before any one else believed so.

He was called to speak at the CII program to celebrate India @ 60 in 2007. True to himself and much to the surprise of the organisers and the audience, he presented India @ 75. He said that rather than looking at the rear view mirror, lets look at the Future and presented his vision of what India should be 75 years after Independence. It became an instant hit and was the toast of the town, with CII, Corporate Leaders and the Government of India, immediately latching on to his idea of India @ 75 and seriously went about building an action plan to materialize his Vision.

He was actively involved in the India@75 initiative of CII and came up with a vision document on India (India@75), a blue print of action for India to become a developed nation.


His vision for India @ 75 was :

He also reminded that India is the laboratory to the world and could become the torch bearers of the New World Order both economically & morally.

Core Principles

1.      Aspirations > Resources

  • The issue is not resources but the balance between aspirations and the resources.
  • To leverage resources- get more for every person and every rupee that you spend.

2.      Fold the Future in

  • Folding the future in rather than extrapolating the past is fundamental.

3.      Focus on Next practices

  • Do not only focus on best practices. If everybody benchmarks everybody else we will gravitate towards mediocrity. So I suggest a focus on next practices.

The Developmental Context

1.      Shift from abject poverty to income inequality

2.      Shift from income levels to life style measurement: the universality of aspirations

3.      Changing the price-performance envelope

4.      Shift from low tech solution to universal access to high technology solutions

5.      Provisioning of products and jobs for ecological vitality

6.      Focus on governance


Glad to know that under the ageis of CII, the Government of India both under the UPA regime and the present NDA regime, have been working diligently towards materializing CKP’s vision for India@75.

India is greatly placed today in the Comity of Nations on 3 fronts – Economically, Intellectually & Spiritually.

We are the fastest growing Economy in the world and the largest attraction for Foreign Investment. India has successfully realised the importance of Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid and is reaping rich dividends.

While many Asian countries are aging (Japan most notably), approximately half of India’s 1.2 billion people are under the age of 26, and by 2020, it is forecast to be the youngest country in the world, with a median age of 29.

“250 million people are set to join India’s workforce by 2030. As a big chunk of the population shifts into the working age group, the offshoot of that is an increase in disposable incomes and conspicuous consumption. This is the most exciting aspect of India’s demographic dividend ,” Sunil Devmurari, country manager for India at Euromonitor.

India has a rich cultural heritage tried & tested over hundreds of years of civilization and was the Economic Super power and also the Spiritual Super power. We lost our way in the last couple of Centuries after being ruled by the Mughals and the British Empire and lost much of our sheen. But with the advent of the 21st Century, being the largest Democracy in the world and the change in belief system, India has a great opportunity once again to restore its lost glory and become a Economic & Moral Super power. But he cautioned that “A nation becomes less corrupt before it gets rich” and as the Father of the Nation said “the Means to an end is as important as the End itself”.

He believed India has the opportunity to actively shape the emerging world order. India can become an active player in shaping not only her destiny but the destiny of the whole world. He also believed in an India that could provide spiritual and not merely economic & technical leadership

Long after his demise, the words of wisdom and his teachings are reverberating across the Board Rooms, Universities & Leaders. He was truly a Guru, who saw into the Future. Hope that he inspires in truly Transforming India into an Economic, Intellectual and Moral Leadership and shape the emerging world order.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi & the Corporate honchos……. are you listening…………

PS: For further details of his Vision Document visit

Also visit India@75 (a CII initiative) to know the progress India has made in this direction

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