In Memorium

CK saw the future like no one did. He was gifted by the Goddess of Learning with the ability to connect the dots, going forward. Most people can do it, only looking backwards.

“If you were a painter, how should you price your painting?”  CK Prahalad would thunder in his trademark, booming, voice to room full of software industry leaders. In the next moment, he was giving them a good bashing for not understanding the essence of what he called value minus pricing. The way the software industry priced its output in the 1990s was akin to a painter charging for the oil and the canvas, and then some more for the labour, all at actual. “Going by that logic, how much do you think should be the price of an MF Hussain painting? You need to respect your own work if you expect the world to take note of it. What you are doing today is cost+ pricing; what you need to shift to, is value minus pricing.”  Those were the days of Y2K and he went from company to company, industry associations to media interviews, urging Indian companies to go up the value chain. Looking back, he was asking midgets to behave like giants.  But today, many of the very same midgets have transformed themselves into giants!

I met him many times after – his was a crusade like no one else’s: he wanted to see his motherland at par with the developed countries of the world that he straddled with the ease of an eagle. Wherever he went, from boardrooms in the US to think tanks in Europe or in his own country, he would ask people to do two things: to look at why something could not be done very differently and two, raise  their expectations from their own selves ten, hundred, and sometimes, a thousand times. I have been personally, deeply,  impacted by not just his message but the way he would take groups of disbelieving men and women, whipping them into rising above themselves with credible, compelling argument born out of a fine mind and at the end, making them aspire for the higher ground! He invariably did it with the sharpness of a sword, never let his audience feel wounded, instead he let them feel that the future, a higher, meaningful, impactful version of the future, was their entitlement.

CK Prahalad at Nyenrode University addressing a sustainability think

When MindTree was launched in 1999, I met him at a small gathering. I walked up to him to personally tell about the fact that some of us had quit our comfortable corporate jobs and were raising venture capital to build a company. “What took you so long, I was wondering,” he quipped. In front of this giant, good was not good enough.

In the last one year, I have run into him a number of times. First we met at a sustainability think-tank  at Nyenrode University in Amsterdam and then more recently, at a CII event in Kolkata where his wife Gayathri was with him. At Nyenrode, he spoke about sustainability with the same ease with which he has been teaching management strategy at class and boardrooms in the same unwavering way as he did two decades ago. At Kolkata, CK was asking a roomful of Bengali corporate bhadraloks as to why the path ahead for revival of Bengal was entrepreneurship and why the time was now. Knowing that only a God could change West Bengal, I was baffled at his messianic zeal. Then it occurred to me, more the disbelievers in some place, greater the need to preach there. Harder the ground, higher the need for the plough!  To CK, Kolkata was where he was needed. As I listened to him speak: there was no change in the way he presented his teasers to the audience, there was no change in the way he confronted them, the only thing different now was his view of the next decade or two. CK saw the future like no one did. He was gifted by the Goddess of Learning with the ability to connect the dots, going forward. Most people can do it, only looking backwards.

CK was in Kolkata as part of a larger mission. He had helped CII craft the vision for India at 75! Only the other day, he had presented a document capturing the dreams and desires of people from a cross-section across the length and the breadth of the country to build a nation that would be full of opportunities for every Indian, a nation that would see education, health and infrastructure and concern for the environment

I have personally come to accept life; and in it, accept death. It does not cause me hurt or anguish.

At least, not for people who have given so much more to life than they have taken out of it.

We cannot get him back but we can keep him alive by taking his message and personal example to continue unabated towards creating India@75, the way he would have loved to see!

That said, Mother India, being a Mother, would grieve her loved son forever. For a mother, it is just never time.

Subroto Bagchi is Vice Chairman and Gardener at MindTree Ltd.

Srividhya Says
Sunday April 18th 2010

Beautiful !! As always your articles have soul.

No one can win against nature but we should strive to keep his optimism and work for betterment of India in every respect.

    Krish Says
    Wednesday October 6th 2010

    Dear Shri Bagchi

    Several years ago, I was captivated by CK – the propounder of “The Core Competence of a Corporation” with Gary Hamel. Much later i did not seem to concur with some of the aspects his “bottom of the pyramid” markets and had ceased following his articles or speeches – preferring to drift into writings on welfare economics etc….

    Your poignant notes of finer aspects of the Mangement Guru and some of the interactions you have had with him – serve as a timely reminder that being opininated can turn me ‘blind’ to the the true lustre and brilliance of Great Masters.

    Thank you several times for these postings.. Can’t be more humbling and expressive….

Dr. Debabrata Mukhopadhyay Says
Tuesday April 20th 2010

He was gifted by the Goddess of Learning with the ability to connect the dots, going forward. Most people can do it, only looking backwards…. the value chain connectivity of life and its importance exhibied which is the need of the hour for a visionary like him but his knowledge remains in pages and grey matter of so many people he taught and shared to carry on his value of knowlege legacy, Salute to A Visionary Mother India will remember you forever. Regards

Ajay Das Says
Wednesday April 21st 2010

Mr.CK Prahalad’s sad demise is not only a huge national loss but a great loos to the world of business. He continues to inspire us even in death.

Sunday April 25th 2010

Mr. Bagchi,

I would like to thank you for writing this to honour a person whom I am proud to call an Indian. I would also like to tell my friends on Linkedin to read this.

Thanks and regards,

Suprio Ghatak

Dileep Raj Says
Wednesday April 28th 2010

He is one of the great business architects of the 20th century.. I love one of his all time evergreen sayings, ” Do things differently….”

Hats off to this leader…

Thursday April 29th 2010

Connecting the dots going forward… that’s the tribute to CK Prahlad… Enjoyed it

Satyadeep Says
Thursday April 29th 2010

Hi Mr. Bagchi,

Quite liked the tribute…

I have been an ardent follower of your blog and wanting to speak to you for a specific help. I was wonderding if I could get your mail id so that I could write to you on this.


Santhosh Ananthakrishnan Says
Friday April 30th 2010

Great loss for India. I have had the honor of having a long, 1:1 discussion with CK at a reception in Florida and his question was – “Why are you here and not in India?”. He believed so much in India and told me that the next several decades will belong to Indians. May his soul rest in peace.

Friday April 30th 2010

I was first introduced to this living legend during my MBA. “Fortune at the bottom of Pyramid” covered first few things that I heard about him. Not to say I immediately connected with his preachings and through that moment till so far and going forward as far as I shall manage to live, I’m always surrounded by his thoughts and philosophies.

RIP CKP. your demise has left us with an unsurmountable loss.. and you will always be in my conscience.

Sandesh Says
Wednesday May 12th 2010

CK,the man who changed the way of thinking of many people…

we miss CK…

Sunday May 16th 2010

Beautiful tribute to the ‘Master’. His concepts ‘strategic intent and core competencies’ have ignited the minds of strategy students worldwide.

Thank you!

Sunday May 23rd 2010

His books, interviews and speeches pack extraordinary power and can easily throw a nation out of her stupor. I was fortunate to have listened to his speech at the Tie Bangalore summit. His was not idle eloquence. Every word came loaded with his sharp insight and conviction. I hope, he and his work will remain in living memory of the world for a long time. His influence, I am sure, will be at work, bringing in positive transformations at all levels, including the bottom of the pyramid. Thanks for this moving memoir. – Tilak

Biswajit Says
Monday May 24th 2010

The whole lot of people at the bottom of pyramid will pray for him for his is the only business guru who went beyond profit making business theories and thought for poor people.

Jagadeesh Says
Monday June 7th 2010

Very Inspiring. The audacious visionary who created a whole new perspective and changed the lives of many.
pranams to CK

Ajay Says
Wednesday June 30th 2010

Why you write “Gardener” as your title????

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