India's Prime Minister Celebrates C.K. Prahalad
Dr. Manmohan Singh remembers Ross professor for his "passionate belief in India's inherent potential and its chosen destiny."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On July 8, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh memorialized C.K. Prahalad during a service in New Delhi. Prahalad, who passed away April 16, was the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Strategy at Ross. The following text of the prime minister's address was released by the Indian government's press information bureau.
"I join all of you in remembering Dr. C. K. Prahalad and celebrating a life lived to the full — meaningfully, wisely, and in the service of the people at large. Some people leave behind wealth, others leave behind some remnants of power, and some leave behind the passionate energy of their ideas that continually stimulate those whose lives they touch. C.K. Prahalad belonged to this third category.
I have often said, quoting Lord Keynes, that one cannot derive the influence of vested interest in human affairs. But ideas have an influence of their own and, for good or for bad, ideas drive our vested interest. That is the belief behind all intellectual conduct and C.K. Prahalad was an embodiment of that faith in the power of creating ideas to move human destiny.
I cannot claim to have known Dr. Prahalad for very long as many of you here did. But since I became prime minister, I had many opportunities to receive him in my office, had intimate discussion about what we need to do to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance, and disease, which still afflict millions and millions of people in this ancient land of ours. But the most intimate contact I had with him was when he came to me and said, 'What would you like to do for India at 75?' He suggested there is nothing more exciting than to have 500 million young Indians fully prepared to face the challenges of living in this modern competitive world. And he was very happy that I endorsed that vision of his. We formed a Skill Development Council and he was the moving spirit behind what motivated and what propelled the idea of skill development in the last four or five years. He felt that we must set a target of current resources, a target unmatched by current resources so that we innovate to reach our goal. He didn't believe that resources are a fixed entity. He believed through innovation, through creative entrepreneurship, it is possible to create ideas that can change the course of human endeavor. He sincerely believed that India cannot afford incrementalism — that we need radical game-changers.
In our conversations what struck me most was his passionate belief in India's inherent potential and its chosen destiny. He felt that India has reached a tipping point. He once told me: 'Without doing very much we may be good. But if we do the right things now, we will truly become great.' He also would say that a country with a billion people should not look outward for 'best practices' but innovate 'next practices.'
His belief in the Indian capacity for innovation, given its diversity and interrogative intellectual traditions, made him celebrate Indian achievement and achievers. Be it Aravind eye hospital whom he introduced to the world as the 'McDonalds of eye care,' the Indian telecom industry that offered call rates at a fraction of the global costs, the Nano, or the low-cost Deccan airlines, Dr Prahalad saw these as efforts at innovative inclusive innovation that India was uniquely capable of. Thanks to his evangelizing zeal, the world today looks at India as a hub for innovation.
In all of these he also demonstrated his belief that innovation should focus on the poor or those at the bottom of the pyramid. He taught business to include those presently not in the market, and create new markets out of them. Many companies have profited by putting these ideas into actual practice. His contributions in management like 'competitive advantage,' 'strategy as stretch,' 'fortune at the bottom of the pyramid' and 'co-creation' will continue to excite his students and colleagues to walk those roads.
In his passing away, our country has lost a very noble worthy son continuously engaged in extending its freedoms. The world has lost a great thought leader and the field of management, one of its visionary intellectuals. If his associates miss him so much I can only imagine the extent of the loss felt by his wife, by his children, and by his friends.
I join all of you in extending our condolences to his family. Once again, let us celebrate this tremendous innovative individual who made India proud."
—Dr. Manmohan Singh
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