Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Remembering CK Prahalad – The Management Guru

Remembering CK Prahalad – The Management Guru
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The news that the management guru, Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad, popularly known as CK Prahalad is no more has disturbed me. This is because as a small time city reporter in 1998 I remember covering the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) conference in Chennai, where he was the key note speaker.

Let me confess I belong to the rare breed of reporter, who have little clue of the person whom he is sent for reporting and comes to know about the person only after the event is over and has filed the report.

My first and last acquaintance with CK Prahalad, was when he was introduced to the audience and I could sense this guy is no small fry because he was given utmost importance by the captains of the industry.

When Prahalad, started talking and I started taking notes, I could gauge the depth and range of knowledge and realized why he was given so much of importance. He sounded like a management thinker, talking about many things big and small that I had no clue about and it was a learning experience to me.

No wonder I still preserve some of his thoughts that I jotted down on “How to Manage India”. Here are some excerpts of his speech.

‘India’s political agenda is still not driven by economics. The economic strategy is still an elitist preoccupation. There is no consensus on the roadmap of improvement of India,’ said CK Prahalad, the management guru.

‘India is still fighting with the past. It has yet to begin its innings of competing with the future,’ he added.

‘In India population is seen as a drag and not an opportunity. Population could also be a positive thing; it can become largest consumer market. Can India create a world-class market,’ Prahalad quizzed.

He suggested ‘India has to get out of the box and cannot remain insular. India does not have many choices. Its can’t do attitude will do no good, and if it has to progress, only can do and must do attitude has to be cultivated.’

Talking about the global economy, Prahalad said, ‘The characterization of new economics is de regularization and privatization. Global open standards, focus on competition, eco sensitivity, transparency, accountability, more people can participate in opportunity. De regularization and privatization, delimitation of local monopolies, outlet capacity, separate the assets from the people. Capital shortage, some capital is required.’

Talking about India, he said, lack of transparency can create lot of problem and advocated transparency and accountability. In order to contain the social upheaval there is the need for employment generation and this could be done only through the growth of the private sector,’ he suggested.

‘Diversified business groups have the scale and scope to sustain and exploit institutional development. Market institution takes a long time to develop,’ he said.

A sound strategic response to liberalization is rationalizing not reduced business, scope emphasizes internal institution building, exploit new opportunities even if it means increased diversification, fresh efficiency, improvement in current business, he added.

Prahalad suggested that the strategy in India should be tailor made and not imported from the west. India should develop unique core competence in an emerging market context.

‘Be fixated on internal institutional development not on increased business focus, look at diversification but from own point of view,’ he told the captains on Indian Industries.

Prahalad talked about many more of things of which I had little clue. I just jotted them as points and reproducing them as it may make sense to those who understand such theories better.

“Global local industries, Entire process of de regulation, Globalization – competition, customers’ opportunity, Global standards – major global pressure shifts. Global suppliers – competition for talent, Global markets- competition for markets, Local global – competition for distribution channels, Supply system – global consolidation of industries.”

'Global products are sold locally, Global recession – shifts will take place. Competition for talent is global, open standards – technology driven. Not stalled and size, quality speed cost features need to critical suppliers.'

'Capacity building – quality speed cost open standards, tremendous volatility – scaling up and scaling down new products , speed competition is leading to the growth of bullishness. Growth formally re write the portfolio, total opportunities view, help people viable local business, re thinking solution, pollution control compact fluent camp verses power generation, choice of technology,'

'Nuclear verses coal, concern for accountability, employer share holder, deep change or slow death, new level of competition, domestic market. Standard managers, new basis for competition for capital talent and customers. '

'Response to liberalization, diversify or focus, relative cost and benefits, value of internal institutions, time to develop eternal institution, strategy verses efficiency, need to be efficient what ever be the strategy.'

CK Prahalad a distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan was rated as the most influential management thought leader twice in a row by Thinkers 50 listing of the world’s top business management gurus.

Three of his boldly original ideas—Strategic Intent, Core Competence and Bottom of the Pyramid—became part of the rule book for a whole generation of executives, shaping winning strategies for their companies.

His bottom-of-the-pyramid approach that challenged conventional thinking about targeting only the most profitable segments of the market acquired a permanent place in the lexicon of chief executives.

His theory and vision behind the viability of the high-volume, low-cost business models were path-breaking. A sharp and analytical mind, his ability to drill down to the core of the problem and come up with innovative solutions was legendary.

The obit note on Pralahad describes him one of the foremost strategic advisers to those at the very top of the corporate pyramid, who has passed away on Friday in California, United States, after a brief illness. The 68-year-old was battling lung disease the past few days.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

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