words fail me
April 17, 2010 2:50 AM   Subscribe

CK Prahalad, Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in the University of Michigan passed away on 16th April 2010 after a brief illness. His core competency was strategic insight and vision and his legacy to the world, the concept of the Bottom of the Pyramid, which changed the way big business viewed the teeming, huddled poverty stricken masses of the former third world as micro-innovators, micro-producers and so, micro-consumers in their own right. Among others, his work inspired Ratan Tata as the Nano turned conventional wisdom of automobile manufacturing on its head and paved the way for Indian industry to focus on the high volume/low margin potential of their domestic market. In 2009, he was named the "world's most influential thinker" . Though not uncriticized for his theories on the Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, one can acknowledge his role in overcoming the "tyranny of dominant logic" that the poor should not simply be recipients of charity but demanding customers in challenging environments. RIP, sir. {previously, previously}
posted by infini (14 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
this isn't good enough. i could have done better.
posted by infini at 2:50 AM on April 17, 2010

more inside?
posted by slater at 2:58 AM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does the last sentence have some words missing, or did he really help overcome the logic that the poor should be demanding customers?
posted by memebake at 3:25 AM on April 17, 2010

memebake, the fundamental concept is that when there are one billion people with one dollar a day, they are a sizable enough market that companies should sit up, take notice, and address their needs (of course there's a profit to be made in this).

As a result, you get things like single-serving soaps or water purifiers that are within the financial reach of locals (Proctor and Gamble). To make those products, you get local factories, and the roads and other infrastructure needed to support them. You get marketing campaigns that are aimed at helping people understand why they should buy Annapurna iodized salt to prevent deficiencies. You get cell phones managed by little old ladies in rural villages that connect sellers to vendors and patients to doctors and families to their kids that ran off to the city (Grameen Phone).

By accepting charity, current thinking in development is that recipients of charity do not learn to go out and do for themselves, and do not attach any respect or pride to the exchange. If you are participating in a market just as everyone else does, you become part of society (such that it is).

I don't pay a lot of attention to obit filters on Mefi, but this one is really sad.
posted by whatzit at 3:32 AM on April 17, 2010

Also, that thinkers site lists him as the "world's most influential business thinker", which is somewhat different to being the "world's most influential thinker". Nice post though, thanks for all the links infini.
posted by memebake at 3:32 AM on April 17, 2010

Does the last sentence have some words missing, or did he really help overcome the logic that the poor should be demanding customers?

probably should be a word there like so "overcome the logic that the poor should be considered demanding customers"

sorry, a tad rattled this morning
posted by infini at 3:34 AM on April 17, 2010

words fail me

Well you managed to squeeze 160 or so out ... ;)

Anyway - this is interesting stuff.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:37 AM on April 17, 2010

A brilliant scholar, he will be missed.
posted by bove at 6:25 AM on April 17, 2010

*rueful smile* I had been unable to find the right post title... and yes, the FPP was a wee bit long, if the mods would have a moment to neaten it up that'd be great. I should have waited for the adrenaline to dissipate before starting the fpp.

(as an aside, I worked exclusively on increasing our understanding of the bop "consumer" and the attendant challenges of addressing this "market" opportunity until recently when I thought I was done with it and just deleted my entire website/blog etc but today, this news has made me look back and wonder... professionally, if asked, I'd have said until this morning that i'm in transition to an emerging focus area for practice and research but now I just don't know if I should walk away from all of it or try to find a way to find a connection to all the bop work and keep the thread alive even in my future work. deep thoughtful sigh - didn't even get a chance to thank him for adding us to his latest version of the book, something I'd have never known if I hadn't just googled keywords for this rambling commentary. am also trying to stay away from this thread before I bawl for teh waste) (gah, flag this somebody, quick)
posted by infini at 8:45 AM on April 17, 2010

So someone builds an idea based around the ignored concept that capitalism is really just a pyramid scheme and it succeeds. Thought so.
posted by Brian B. at 9:04 AM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this.
posted by stratastar at 10:36 AM on April 17, 2010


This is sad. The chance to work with CK Prahalad was one of the reasons I wanted to go to U.Mich Guess it'll never be now.
posted by the cydonian at 8:50 PM on April 17, 2010

"Bottom of the pyramid" ???

And what's to be found at the "bottom of the pyramid"? The earth.

Without which there would be no "pyramid".

Upon which one can choose to stand and look down. Or from which one can come down.
posted by Twang at 1:25 AM on April 18, 2010

I don’t move in these circles but am fascinated by them.
Unfortunately I had never heard before of CK Prahalad. It is a great pity that I only learn of him on his death.. Nor did I know much about BOP; but I’m learning.
Charity often strikes me as being more beneficial to the giver than to the end recipient. Especially considering the percentage which actually ends up where it was intended.
This has been forcefully argued by the likes of Dambisa Moyo.
(see FPP.
Similarily The Barefoot College referenced in the FPP is a better way to go (see more).
I firmly believe that the way out of poverty is for the market to include these people and it is fascinating how this is being done as whatzit points out. Empowering people to empower themselves must be the way forward.
posted by adamvasco at 4:48 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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