Q&A: C.K. Prahalad
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The University of Michigan business school professor thinks the West can learn a lot from Indian companies.
Known as dubbawallas, Mumbai’s army of lunch deliverymen tote pails of hot lentils and bread to the city’s office workers. Without centralized management, they reliably deliver 175,000 lunches a day in the rainy season and in the heat. They comprise a kind of human Internet with a classification, coding, and routing system designed to convey soups and salads instead of data.
The dubbawallas represent the sort of only-in-India enterprise that lured C.K. Prahalad back to his native country from the University of Michigan, where he is a professor at the Ross Business School. Mr. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, has long argued that major corporations must start marketing their products to the world’s poor. Now, Mr. Prahalad is visiting the Center for Global Resource Leverage at Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Information Technology with an eye for Indian business practices that the West should borrow. If companies do start following his advice, and begin selling to the world’s slums and impoverished rural villages, there will be much to learn from companies in India, Mr. Prahalad reasons.
Mr. Prahalad recently spoke to Red Herring about Infosys, dubbawallas, and jobs in India for U.S. pilots.
Q: Is India important enough to matter to the global business community?
A: Times have changed. Now, business knowledge will go from the poor to rich countries. Poor nations should also become contributors to the flow of knowledge.
We will make that happen. We are not doing this to be nice to India. India is the place where cutting-edge problems as well as opportunities lie. It wasn’t so 20 years ago.
Continue reading the interview with C.K. Prahalad in Red Herring