It is a measure of CK Prahalad’s fame that I read about his demise in a Sinhala weekly. I had missed the story because I was teaching in Cape Town and then on the road until the end of April. But today, as I glanced through this low-circulation, but high-impact, weekly, I learnt of his passing.
Last year, I was discussing the possibilities of inviting him to give lectures and interact with business leaders in Colombo and southern India. Our business partner was of the opinion that Professor Prahalad was not known widely in Sri Lanka and that we would have to do extensive marketing. That whole issue became moot because we had difficulty reaching him and because our priorities changed. But the fact that there are columns in his honor in Sinhala newspapers suggests that he is not unfamiliar to opinion leaders in Sri Lanka.
We honor this great thinker because he focused us on thinking of the poor not as objects of charity, but as consumers who had to be wooed and persuaded just like everyone else. Our tribute to him is the Google search for the phrase “bottom pyramid telecom.” It’s mostly LIRNEasia product.
A scholar’s immortality comes from the fact that people cite her/him after she/he had died. By that measure, CK Prahalad will live for a long time.