A Tribute To C. K. Prahalad

Posted Apr 20, 2010

On April 16, 2010 Dr. Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad (also known as C K Prahalad) passed away. Prahalad was one out of nine children and his father was a Sanskrit language scholar and judge in Chennai, India. Prahalad worked at the Union Carbide battery plant after completing a B.Sc degree in Physics from Loyola College in Chennai, India. Loyola College is a part of the University of Madras.

After that Prahalad did post graduate work in management at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad. After graduating from there he went on to get a D.B.A. degree from Harvard Business School. Prahalad went back to India to teach to teach at IIM, but came back to the United States shortly after. He was appointed the position of the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in the University of Michigan. While he was teaching in Ann Arbor, that is when he became a family friend of ours. Essentially he became a mentor for my dad and encouraged him to take on a healthcare project in India. Today my dad is running a hospital in India and is using some of the concepts and advice Prahalad gave him.

Prahalad has written several books and papers about corporate strategy. If you have taken a Business Strategy class in business school, there’s a 99% chance that your textbook contains concepts popularized by Prahalad. He wrote The Core Competence of the Corporation (Harvard Business Review, May-June 1990), Competing for the Future (with Gary Hamel), The Future of Competition (with Venkat Ramaswamy-another family friend of ours and a business professor associated with the U of M), The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, and The New Age of Innovation (with M.S. Krishnan). Prahalad was the co-founder and CEO of Praja Inc., a company that focuses on allowing common people to access information without restrictions.

Prahalad passed away in San Diego and is survived by his wife, Gayatri; son, Murali Prahalad; daughter, Deepa Prahalad; and three grandchildren. Prahalad has contributed a lot to the business world and I know he will be missed. I never had the chance to sit down with him, but he was very close to my circle of family friends. I know my dad will miss his mentor.

Below is an interview between Prahalad and former Microsoft Corporate VP Will Poole.