Michigan: Management expert C.K. Prahalad has said that converting India into the largest economic opportunity the world has ever seen requires the integration of three key elements: economic strength, technology development, and moral leadership. In other words, it's time to eschew traditional strategy in order to actualize an India that plays a significant role in shaping the new world order.
Prahalad is best known for his work regarding the "fortune at the bottom of the pyramid." But as Prahalad imagines an independent India at age 75, he foresees a new shape on the horizon. "I am always accused of having thought about the pyramid," Prahalad says. "But I was very clear since day one. Our job is to understand the pyramid so it becomes the diamond - so most people live normal, middle class lives. That, I think, should be our goal as managers and people of privilege."
Prahalad is the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Strategy at Ross. He presented his vision for "India at 75" during the first India Business Conference hosted at the school on October 10th. "History has shown that economic strength and vitality of technology without morality is defunct," he says. "No other country has as much diversity in terms of language, religion, and ethnicity as India. If we can learn to live in harmony and leverage our diversity, we can demonstrate that the world can live in peace. It's an obligation that diversity is something to be celebrated and leveraged, not squandered."
According to him, it all starts with a goal of 200 million college graduates, a workforce of 500 million trained workers, universal literacy, and 300 new cities by 2022. So far, the goal of 500 million trained, skilled workers is one the Indian government has officially embraced. But, it's a goal that requires unprecedented innovation. "To train 500 million people at world-class levels and at low cost in (just over a decade) is a goal no society has ever attempted."
Embracing this kind of radical thinking could be one reason that Prahalad has topped CrainerDearlove's "Thinkers 50" list of the Most Influential Business Thinkers for the second time. In 2007, he was also placed No. 1 on the biennial ranking of the Top 50 management thought leaders worldwide. He is also credited for having coined the term "core competencies" and is the author of the groundbreaking book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.
"Leadership is about the future," he says. "We can understand the past, but not be constrained by the past. You cannot start with where we are, and yet that's what most strategy does. When you start with the current situation you can only extrapolate. Strategy is not about extrapolation. Therefore, I think our job is to imagine the future first and fold the future in."