Inspiration behind India@75
C.K. Prahalad, 1941 – 2010
Padma Bhushan Late Professor Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad
Padma Bhushan Late Professor Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad (C.K. Prahalad,1941 – 2010), the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in the University of Michigan was the inspirational force behind the India@75 initiative.
Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad was one of nine children. His father was a well-known Sanskrit scholar and judge in Madras, (now Chennai). When he was 19, Prahalad was recruited by the manager of the local Union Carbide battery plant. He worked there for four years. Prahalad calls his Union Carbide experience a major inflection point in his life.
Prahalad then went to the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM – A), where he got married and left for Harvard University. There Prahalad wrote a PhD thesis on multinational management in just two and a half years. He returned to India to teach at the IIM-A. But his ideas on global business were under constant attack from nationalists in India. He decided to return to the United States, as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan.
Prahalad was in the top ten management thinker in every major survey for over ten years. Business Week said of him: “a brilliant teacher at the University of Michigan, he may well be the most influential thinker on business strategy.” He was member of the blue ribbon commission of the United Nations on Private Sector and Development. He was the first recipient of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Award for contributions to Management and Public Administration in 2000 and was also conferred with the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman and Padma Bhushan in 2009 by the President of India.
What makes CK Prahalad so amazing is that he was not walking the halls of the United Nations or the State Department to address poverty; he was waking up Fortune 500 companies to his vision of social change. He was attempting to convert the seemingly unconvertible, and he was creating an entirely new paradigm in his wake.
He virtually rewrote the lexicon of business Strategy and created a language that allowed the business community to talk about social change and simultaneously allowed the social sector to talk about capitalism as a tool to fight injustice. This contribution alone demonstrates his sheer brilliance in the face of one of the greatest cultural and ideological divisions of our time.
Prof Prahalad’s work was always grounded in his deep commitment to education. Despite his fame and prestige he always continued to teach and to listen. He was not just a guru or an icon he was a teacher and a mentor. Despite being based out of USA, he was deeply rooted with India and also drew a vision for his country in its 75th year of Independence called India@75. He dreamt big but at the same time anchored his vision to the inherent potential of India especially the economic resilience, technological vibrancies and high morality; he also drew the broad road map to achieve our objective.
His contributions in the social sector have been innumerable; however noteworthy is emphasis on 500 million skilled technicians in India by 2022 – this has been accepted by the top policy makers of the country and resulted in the formation of National Skill Development Council/ Corporation with a target of 150 million and balance 350 million been distributed amongst the 17 line Ministries of the Govt. of India.