Sunday, March 04, 2007

Chance of a lifetime to listen to Dr C.K Prahalad

11th Feb '07

It was one of the most enriching and fulfilling days of my life today. I couldn't have asked for a better parting gift from Pune than this. This was my last weekend in Pune before I would be lost in the humdrum of Bangalore. I woke up today quite late taking liberty of the day being a Saturday. Peering into the morning newspaper, my eyes caught on a heading that said, "Business prophet CK Prahalad to speak at UoP foundation day". This was serendipity at its best. It was only yesterday that we (Ashok and me) were talking about Prahalad's pioneering initiative of the "sachet culture" that revolutionized the way FMCG majors did their business in rural market. I immediately sprung up from my bed and headed for the place.

C.K. Prahalad was invited as the Chief Guest for the foundation day celebration at University of Pune. There were other luminaries at the dais of whom I knew nothing about. I also found a familiar face that of famed actor Sriram Lagu amongst them, who as I came to know, was to be felicitated with the "Jeevan Sadhana" award. After bearing the torturous and painfully long Marathi speeches (because I do not understand the language) of all the speakers, came the chance for Dr Prahalad to speak. The flutter created among the audience was palpable as soon he was asked to speak. The spectators instantly shook themselves out of the lethargy and inactivity. Students who were till now ambling out in the sun, rushed to occupy their seats. The buzz was in the air, "Dr Prahalad is going to speak".

Mr Prahalad had prepared a slideshow presentation for this occasion. It read, "Advances in Science and Strategy: India as a source of Next Practices".

Though I cannot retrace everything that Dr Prahalad covered in the seminar, I will try to reproduce bits and pieces of whatever I could manage to scribble on my pad.

Outline of the seminar:

  • Strategy and science
  • Constraints
  • India as a source of innovation
    • Innovative work process
    • Fundamental new practices

"India needs to follow 'Next Practices' and not Best Practices. We could all fall into mediocrity of we stuck to best practices", he started off saying.

Emerging areas of research:

· Brain studies

· Nanotechnology

· Global warming

· Genetics

· Artificial Intelligence

· Energy

· Search

· Imaging

(I lost a few more)

· Technology changing faster than ever

He also spoke about technology changing faster than ever and it becoming cheaper by the day. Computational speed of computers getting higher and higher and price reducing parallely. He also spoke about the fact that any new technology that is not cheap and unaffordable to the poorest of poor. Technology is no longer a preserve of a single country. "Every child by 2015 will have access to technology".

· India far behind

He also expressed his concerns about the sorry state of research in India stating an example of the neighboring China, which produced more papers in nanotechnology than USA.

· Collaboration: The need of the hour

He also spoke about the need for collaboration. How industries need to charter their future policies keeping mutual collaboration in mind. "No single company can survive the market forces of its own. If IBM can't do it all by itself lets not attempt to do so", he said

· Individual centric service

He also alluded t the new wave of Web 2.0 ( I will prepare my next post on this global phenomenon) and how the industry is becoming individual centric(Youtube, Google, Wikipedia).

· Breakthrough in innovation

"Innovation is the key for survival for any business today. For hardware companies who earlier used to service their products have brought the use of remote maintenance using sensors. He also spoke about taking technology to the people. Poor need not spend money to be diagnosed for an ailment but should be remotely diagnosed with the help of modern communication techniques. Best universities shouldn't be bound by geographical constraints to reach remote parts of India. They should take the help of technology. He cited examples of some social innovations like coming of Tata's 1 lakh car, Walmart that was built for the poor. (I can add Air Deccan's low cost carrier to the list).

· He also spoke about his new initiative for a public policy on Diabetes in India. It's an exhaustive program that follows an incentive based treatment model that focuses more on the individual's lifestyle habits.

Challenges for India:

  • Not enough Phd Programs not here
  • No effort on improving the quality of research
  • No setting up of University technology transfer offices in the universities. These are setups in universities where research results are replicated in the industry in collaboration.
  • Poor recruiting and retention of world class faculties in Indian universities, stating a stark contrast with that of countries like Taiwan, Korea and China.

Dr Prahalad pointed out the following ingredients required for the transformation he visualizes:

  1. Ingenuity
  2. Passion
  3. Courage
  4. Humanity
  5. Humility
  6. Intellect
  7. Luck!

Sorry to have provided a jumbled up account of the seminar. It was difficult for me to get the flow correctly. Nevertheless, I feel it's better to jot whetever I could bring out from his presentation, than wait any further and see things get obliterated completely from my memory.

A few facts about Dr C.K. Prahalad:

  • C.K Prahalad is fondly called as CK in the management world.
  • Founder of the GPMD {Global Program for the management development) program.
  • Professor of Corporate Strategy at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.
  • His illustrious career is dotted by many achievements and awards:

he has been honored for his contribution with a lifetime achievement award by Ross School of Business

  • In one single year of 2005, he was awarded three different degrees of honorary doctorates-one in engineering by Stevens Institute of Technology, New York, second in Economics by University of London, and third in Business by University of Abertay.
  • In a biannual survey of top 50 thinkers in management, based on 'originality of ideas, practicals, application, rigour of research and impact of their ideas, global outlook and loyalty of followers", CK ranked 3 rd most influential thinker in the world.
  • In 2004, elected he was elected as 'Global India' by a panel jury of business leaders.
  • He has wriiten few very popular books:


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