Scott Anderson

Remembering C.K. Prahalad : Through Action

“We have many challenges ahead of us, particularly when it comes to scale, but it’s a major leap from where we were five or six years ago in terms of people understanding what doing business with the base of the pyramid is. “

That was Luiz Ros, manager of Opportunities for the Majority, reflecting on the upcoming BASE Forum in a preview Q&A last week posted on NextBillion. Of course, the base the pyramid – first popularized by C.K. Prahalad in his research and groundbreaking book, has become, at least in economic circles, a household term.

That didn’t happen overnight. C.K.’s daughter Deepa Prahalad, who is an author and business consultant, said the Harvard Business Review (HBR) rejected the seminal article, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, which he co-authored with Stuart Hart. (The article was published in Strategy + Business in 2002). And although it did not accept the original, HBR has since published many articles (see here, here and here) that explore BoP themes. (It’s a testament to the power of good ideas).

As part of the C.K. Prahalad Initiative at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where C.K. Prahalad was a professor until he died three years ago this month, several business students presented the findings of their recent Multi-disciplinary Action Projects (MAP) on Monday. For this particular batch of MAP projects, in which first-year Ross MBA students devote themselves to a specific company or nonprofit organization for a semester, several students were embedded in BoP-engaged companies. Those firms included MedPlus, ICICI Bank, Move the Mountain, and Aravind Eye Care.

Deepa Prahalad said her father would have been gratified to see another new cohort of students engaged in action-based learning instead of toiling in abstract research far away from where actual impact takes place. She noted that questions about whether to engage and empower the poor through market-based practices are now “in the background” for the vast majority companies and business academics. Business education around poverty alleviation is moving away from “being dogmatic to being analytical,” she said.

“‘Who would be better off because of this work?’” was a rhetorical, centering question her father always asked, Deepa Prahalad recalled.

Over the weekend, a few people were Tweeted and retweet a couple of past NextBillion articles written soon after Prahalad’s death. I thought I’d pass them along below:

?Remembering CK Prahalad – A Colleague’s Reflection By Stuart Hart

?Remembering CK Prahalad – A Legacy of Moral Leadership By Nina Henning

Base of the Pyramid