I, like many others, was saddened to hear of the untimely passing away of Prof. C. K. Prahalad. His career spanned over three decades during which time he introduced several innovative business ideas that quickly became mainstream. He was one of the first to identify ‘core competencies’ of a business and relate it to a company’s competitive advantage. His next book introduced the concept of ‘co-creation’ where corporations engaged their customers in creating joint value. It influenced many of the approaches used by companies in the 2000s to get their customers to co-design products.
Perhaps his most widely influential work was his last book on “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through profits”. In it he outlined his take on how corporations could profitably service the very large market that consists of the bottommost economic strata. While the affluent tip of the global economic pyramid consists of less than 100 million people who make over $20,000 a year, there are over 2 to 2.5 Billion people who live on less than $2 a day. Yet these markets at the bottom of the economic pyramid also have needs and wants. By properly designing products and delivery mechanisms to satisfy this segment of the consumer population, he showed how companies could make money while helping this social segment.
His Bottom of the Pyramid or BOP approach quickly caught on and today a range of multinationals are focused on creating solutions that are targeting this market segment. Examples of these include Hindustan Lever, Godrej and GE Healthcare. His philosophy that even the poorest segment had a real market need and were a viable market has helped redirect corporate strategies and will have significant impact across the globe.
CK Prahalad has been honored for his work around the world including most recently being awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian honors, by the Indian Government. The world will miss this strategic thinker but his legacy will continue to improve the quality of life for millions subsisting at the bottom of the pyramid.
You can read an earlier piece I wrote about his work on my blog at “Designing for the bottom of the pyramid”.