Rediff India Abroad
 Rediff India Abroad Home  |  All the sections
Get your big ideas here

When Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad was nam-ed the third most influential business thinker after Harvard strategy specialist Michael Porter and Microsoft founder Bill Gates in a 2005 'Thinkers 50' list, the world was not surprised.

In fact, in every major survey conducted during the past decade, Prahalad, Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, has been on the list of top ten management thinkers in the United States. 'A brilliant teacher at the University of Michigan, he may well be the most influential thinker on business strategy today,' Business Week once said of him. When the top management at the world's foremost companies -- AT&T, Citicorp, Kodak, Oracle, Philips, Revlon -- turn to one man for consultancy, the esteem in which he is held becomes apparent rather quickly.

in his words
'The bottom of the pyramid comprises 5 billion underserved and unserved people. I am not interested in the pseudo-efficiency of trying to precisely measure poverty. I am interested in business innovations that will bring the bottom of the pyramid into the market-driven economy.'
Photo: Jewella C Miranda
Born in Coimbatore, India, Prahalad -- who has also taught at the Indian Institute of Management -- studied physics at the University of Madras followed by a four-year stint as a manager at the Union Carbide company. He went on to earn a PhD from Harvard.

Driven by a need for a more 'hands-on' approach in business, he co-founded an Internet start-up called Praja in 1997. What it wanted to do was pull the Internet away from information-based content towards something more experiential. When the tech bubble collapsed, the company was hit, but Prahalad says the experience taught him a lot.

An effective speaker and prolific writer -- his Competing for the Future, co-authored with Gary Hamel in 1994, was named best-selling business book of the year -- Prahalad was awarded the McKinsey Prize for The End of Corporate Imperialism co-authored with Kenneth Lieberthal by the Harvard Business Review.

What makes Prahalad so special -- his specialized research in corporate strategy notwithstanding -- is his ability to combine the roles of business thinker and teacher. To come up with ideas is always a gift; it is the ability to share them, and share them effectively, that marks some people as unique.