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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 23, March 16-31, 2013
A management guru remembered
By S. Viswanathan

The occasion was the unveiling of the bust of Prahalad at the CII Southern Region headquarters in Chennai.

CII had worked closely with Prahalad. He spoke at their conferences galore. On each occasion, Prahalad came with a new concept, a new idea and a new hypothesis. These were truisms and were presented in simple, lucid terms like "the bottom of pyramid" exposition. I remember his explaining this in easy-to-understand language with the examples of Amul, Nirma and Arvind Eye Care. It was amazing to learn from him about Hindustan Lever adopting the Nirma experience, not just for introducing the low-cost detergent, Wheel, in India but also for replicating it in Brazil! Equally forceful was his presentation on the cost effective treatment of heart ailments by Bengaluru's Narayana Hridayalaya.

At the beginning of the liberalisation era, Prahalad predicted that several multinationals which had joint ventures with Indian business houses would go on their own splitting up with their Indian partners. He listed ten companies, including TVS-Suzuki, Kinetic-Honda, Godrej, P&G and Thapar-DuPont, and predicted that one half of the name would vanish. How true it became!

Prahalad articulated the India@75 initiative during an event commemorating the 60th year of Indian independence in New York. He charted out his vision for India@75 when India would have the world's largest pool of trained manpower, become home for at least 30 of the Fortune 100 firms and account for 10 per cent of global trade, among others. Imagine his dreaming of this and believing in this at Michigan, thousands of miles away! The management guru repeatedly stressed the need for innovation and for leap-frogging growth. Disruptive growth has been a constant refrain of his, when he stressed that quantum growth cannot be achieved by linear progression.

Prahalad had special attachment to Chennai where he had his early education. When I interviewed him for Chennai Doordarshan, the programme executive suggested at the last moment that the interview should be in Tamil. This ace communicator, who had moved away from the city more than 30 years earlier, readily agreed. He mentioned that he had studied in the Tamil medium at the Corporation School, Nungambakkam (yes, the Corporation Schools in those times had such quality teachers who produced eminent men like Prahalad, P.V. Indiresan and Gen. Sundarji!). The TV discussion had Prahalad's stamp of lucidity, simplicity and novelty.

In the late 1960s, M.K. Raju, another management expert who headed India Pistons Ltd. (IPL), appointed Prahalad as Manager – Management Services. Prahalad assembled a large number of management graduates at IPL which became a model for managerial excellence. Remember, in those times Madras had few of this tribe of management graduates employed by engineering-oriented units. Sadly, the prolonged industrial strife at the Amalgamations group in 1971 led to Prahalad and most members of his team leaving IPL. But the loss of Madras was the gain of the world: pretty soon Prahalad moved to Michigan and emerged a global management guru! The predominantly family-owned companies of the South have benefited by Prahalad's advice. An interactive session with him on managing family-owned businesses became an annual feature.

Grateful business leaders in good numbers participated in the unveiling of Prahalad's bust. Not often does Chennai witness such a collection of business leaders paying tribute to someone from outside politics or business. This was a wonderful aberration. (Courtesy: Industrial Economist)

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In this Issue

Dear Mr. Finance Minister
Desalination plants
Govt. funding helps heritage thrive
The Memorials of Schwartz
KVK and his public causes
The Stanley Hospital Story by Shobha Menon
From Gandhi & Rajaji to Em & Big Hoom
Past Times
A management guru remembered

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for Your Diary
Madras Eye


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