What Multinationals Understand

By Edward H. Baker

Rising Expectations

After authoring two books on business strategy—Competing for the Future (1994) and The Future of Competition (2003)—the subject of C.K. Prahalad's new book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (2004), was deceptively simple.

"I was concerned about new growth markets," says Prahalad.

So he turned his attention to the five billion poor people of the world who aren't even on the radar screens of most companies.

"We assume that because they are poor and they work for less than $2 or $3 a day, they do not constitute a market."

In reality, says Prahalad, that's a $14 trillion market, one that "no company can afford to ignore."

Here are excerpts from a recent interview with Prahalad and CIO Insight's Edward Baker.

CIO Insight: Can you discuss briefly how you came to write The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?

Prahalad: After a fairly successful book like Competing for the Future, back in 1994, I decided that I was going to put myself in a zone of discomfort. And as we talked about last time, Competing for the Future was a pre-Internet book.

So the first starting point, around 1995 to 1997, was to really ask the question: How will the Internet change the nature of the relationship between the consumer and the firm?

And I taught a course on strategy, and we divided companies between A type firms, which are traditional firms, and B type firms, which are the dot-coms. Basically, my argument in the class was that neither of them were going to survive in their current form. They'll emerge as C type firms.

That dot-coms will have to still do logistics and still do supply chain. Amazon worked because they made the investment.

On the other hand, the GMs of the world will also have to learn how to interact with consumers in a totally different way. So that led to The Future of Competition, which is what you folks reviewed.

Simultaneously, I was also concerned about where is the largest growth market, and one thing led to the other, and it became quite obvious that there is only so much you can grow through mergers and acquisitions.

There's only so much you can grow by creating the 78th version of coffee for the American retail market. But suddenly it's obvious that four billion people are not even in the industry of large companies, and certainly American and European and Japanese companies.

It's not that these four billion people do not have the same aspirations that the rest of the people have, but we assume, because they are poor and they work for less than $2 or $3 a day, that they do not constitute a market. Now that's an important assumption that we have implicitly made.

So if you look at just ten countries—China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, South Africa, Russia and Thailand—on a purchasing power parity basis, which is a good measure of the vitality and the intensity of transaction of goods and services, within their economy they're about $12.5 trillion. And that is larger than Germany, the U.K., France, Italy and Japan put together.

Now, no company can afford to ignore this market, but on the other hand, to participate in this market is not just taking existing stuff that you have here and tweaking it at the margin.

Next Page: Why tweaking the western model has failed abroad.

Failure Abroad

Actually, I started this process by doing some research in China and India, and I published a paper in Harvard Business Review called the "The End of Corporate Imperialism," arguing, essentially, that every company that has gone to India and China and tried to tweak the Western model has failed for the same two or three reasons.

One, the cost structures are totally inappropriate.

Two, the product features and functions are inappropriate. We can assume here that almost all people use detergents in a washing machine, but to make the assumption, therefore, that a product formulated for use in a sophisticated washing machine is what is needed by people who are washing their clothes under a tap or in a running stream or in a bucket of water—that's totally inappropriate.

The third reason is underestimation of the need to build a distribution system that is appropriate for the product and services that are provided, and that includes customer education.

As I was doing this work, it became very obvious that this is the most untapped, and one of the most interesting, opportunities that exists in the world, not only because of the opportunity that it provides for growth, but also because it's an opportunity to change the way inequality in the world exists.

By helping poor people to become active consumers, we can change the levels of inequality in the world. So it is, sort of, what one may call "do good and do well" simultaneously. By doing good you can also do well, or you do well, and, therefore, good things happen.

But that's a huge departure from the traditional ways of thinking, because the traditional approach was that the only way you can solve the problems of poverty is through aid and subsidies. And this comes out and says that's exactly the wrong way to go.

What we need to do is to really create massive entrepreneurship and build the private sector as an integral part of change. And the private sector does not necessarily mean only large companies. The small and medium-size enterprises, individual entrepreneurs like an Amway distributor or an Avon distributor. So, how to build a wealth-creating ecosystem?

You change the character of poverty because now the focus is on wealth creation. It is not us going and selling our products, but, instead, effectively allowing communities to participate in helping us build the services and products that they like to have, and at prices that they can afford.

So you cross the first line of separation, where you start seeing not poverty but opportunity, not poor people but consumers; it's not an elitist view of telling them what they need, but an opportunity to give them choice and dignity.

If you can make the transition once, then how to participate in those markets becomes obvious.

Of course, it's one thing to say that this can be done, and another thing to prove that it can be done. So I had to go and look not for cases where there is a minor experimentation, but, rather, significant and sustained and profitable innovation. So every case I have here is large and significant innovation and has significant profitability.

For example, the Aravind Eyecare System is the world's largest eye-care organization.

They do 200,000 cataract operations each year. They do it for $30; the equivalent in the U.S. is $3,000. And the quality at Aravind is better on all counts.

So it is very hard for people to say I don't agree with that. It exists. You can go and see, it's not an idea.

And more important, they're extremely profitable, no debt, and 45 percent of the revenue is profit. So you can do the math and say the costs are so low because they've fundamentally rethought the entire process of how to do eye care.

Same thing with Jaipur Foot, same thing with ITC's e-Choupal—they're connecting the villages for improving the efficiency of what we call true logistics.

So one after the other the cases are successful innovations, with a wide range of industries from healthcare, to agriculture, to finance and banking, to garment—it cuts across the whole lot. So people just cannot come and say that it does not apply to me. There is enough diversity of industries, enough diversity of countries, to say that this can work.

And I also wanted to make sure that people make an emotional connection to this opportunity and not just an intellectual connection. So that's why you have the CD that comes with the book, where you have three to four minutes for each case where you hear the voices of poor people, so that people cannot say, "Yeah, that's true, but how do we know they're happy?"

Of course, they are happy. You can see them and you can hear them talk about their reactions in their own language. So that's what the project has been.

I was particularly keen that I spend some time with you folks, because if you look at and cut across all of these innovations, central to them is the use of technology.

Let me take one case, and we can elaborate on other cases later. If I look at ITC e-Choupal, ITC started with a simple problem: how to organize the logistics of soybean movement from subsistence farmers to government-sanctioned auction houses in the various villages, then to bulking and aggregation to its processing facilities. And this has been a very tortuous process—uneven flow, lots of inefficiencies, lots of costs on the way.

They come to the conclusion: Use the latest technology and make an Internet facility available in the village, so that people can check the prices, so the farmer knows what price he or she is getting.

At the same time, advertise the price at which ITC is willing to buy, so than can get a price at which farmers are willing to sell.

Over a period of time, this network will reduce costs. It just so happens the farmer gets 7 to 8 percent more for his produce without changing anything, and, therefore, it's a huge incentive for him. And he gets a fair price because he can compare the prices himself. He doesn't have to depend on anybody else.

The company gets a regular supply that's maybe 7 to 8 percent cheaper.

This is a very interesting case. How do you pay the farmers more and get it cheaper? It looks like an impossible thing to do, but it is very possible to do if you eliminate the transactional inefficiencies in the system.

Next Page: Disintermediation?


CIO INSIGHT: Is it a disintermediation story?

It's sort of disintermediation, and it is done in a very interesting way. Now that's the specification of the project, though, of course, there are lots of problems on how do you build an Internet network when power supply is very poor in India.

Do you have satellite phone connections because the land lines don't work? The power is so uneven, do you have to have a solar panel to at least get four or five hours of operating capability?

There's a whole host of interesting questions on how do you deploy the technology in the most hostile environment.

The interesting part of the story happens afterward. Here you have a cluster of farmhouses in a village with one PC in one farmer's house. That farmer is expected to take a public oath that he will use his machine judiciously and fairly so that everybody will have access to the information. That's a public oath so that he does not favor one farmer over another and deny information to others and so on.

They do not have a clue. These people have not seen a typewriter before in their lives. And if you see the videos, it's very telling. The guy says he didn't even know what a mouse was. Three months later, they're checking spot prices on the Chicago Board of Trade.

And this was all self-learned?

Totally self-learned. And the best practices move around from village to village. Somebody figured out that what happens in the Chicago Board of Trade has an influence on soybean prices in India. So he says, "I can wait now or I can sell immediately depending on what's happening."

Now they're using Web-based weather information to decide when to spray fertilizers and when to spray pesticides. They say there's no point using fertilizer if there's not going to be rain. On the other hand, if there's going to be rain, don't use pesticides because the rain will wash them away. You'll have to re-use the pesticide, and that pollutes the land.

Now, ITC is saying now that we have built infrastructure, can we sell rain insurance, life insurance, crop insurance? Suddenly this infrastructure is becoming the conduit of taking people from the 19th century to the 21st century in one leap.

Is the use of the Internet now spreading? Is it still just this one farmer that's the conduit for information or are there now more devices?

Actually it's still the one machine in the village of maybe 100 people or 150 homes. But the interesting thing is, if you watch the video, he will tell you that if the company took away the machine today, he'd go and buy one himself because, he says, "I see the benefit of PC connectivity."

And so the fascinating thing for me is that people in technology have always thought that we have to start with low-end technology and scale them up slowly. What this is demonstrating is that they can go directly to where we are in the use of Internet, in the use of information, in making choices. So the asymmetry information, asymmetry of choice, that existed between the intermediates and the large company and the farmer, individual farmer, have changed just like we talked about in The Future of Competition, where the asymmetry of information between the individual consumer and the firm has changed because of the Internet. Exactly the same story, but replicated in the village.

And then there's some very interesting stories. Our researchers get used to these guys, and then they come back to Ann Arbor. The farmer sends them an e-mail in Hindi, with English script, but in the content saying we hear that in America people like organically grown food. We know how to grow that here. Can you arrange for distribution there? Now look at the possibility of entrepreneurship for that poor villager today.

So when we talk about globalization through the use of technology, to me there's the more dramatic instance where you can connect a farmer with two acres of land in one part of India to a global opportunity. Now, he's not going to grow enough organic food and ship it all the way here to make big money, but the fact that he's thinking that his opportunity today is global not local. And he's connected, and he can talk to somebody in the rest of the world. He's powerful because it creates a level of interdependence that we never had.

Next Page: Benefits for cost reduction.

Cost Reduction

And how does ITC benefit from all this?

Well, first, because they get regular supply, and, second, they reduce the cost for themselves—7 to 8 percent less in a commodity business is a huge advantage. Third, now they own the network, so they can get a bank to use the network and pay them for selling life insurance or crop insurance, and so on. You control the toll roads to these people, and these people trust you because you brought this technology to them.

And they're expanding these programs?

Absolutely. About ten million farmers are covered.

Do you see this happening in many countries?

In India it's more common, but it's happening some in Latin America, Brazil, Argentina and so on, and hopefully in South Africa. Not so much in the Middle East.

Why do you think that's so?

I find it very fascinating that people need to have the entrepreneurial drive to experiment, and the experimentation and entrepreneurial drive requires private sector—a dominant private sector, or a large private sector. And it's not enough if you just have a private sector, you must also have the freedom to experiment, and, therefore, democracies are ideal for experimentation.

If you look at those three conditions—availability of a private sector, large number of NGOs who are willing to experiment at a local level, and the availability of working democracy—then it's not surprising that a lot of it is happening in India. Seven of the 12 cases are from India, and people assume that because I'm from India that's why the cases are from India. But, no, that's where the experimentation is. The technology exists. And as you folks know, millions of people are in the software industry, so if a company wants to do something like this, it's not a big deal to go and hire 25 people who will go out and install computers and do the networking and do the training of the villages in the local language. Would this be much more difficult to do in China?

The technology exists, the devices exist, but I believe that government will have to loosen up. Because when people experiment, they're not just going to check prices of soybeans. They check all kinds of things. They download music. They surf pornographic sites. They do whatever the hell everybody else does. And if you're just trying to control all of it too much, especially political dialogue, people exchanging notes about politicians, then you can't have this.

So that is why it works in India, because everything goes. You can say what you want on the Internet and nobody cares.

If you take an example like this, this logistics, what do you think is the next step for this, for these farmers?

Oh, the next steps are very obvious. They get agronomy help—for some disease, say—all they need to do is bring a leaf, attach a simple camera to your PC, and beam the pictures to an agricultural station. Somebody can look at it and say this is what you've got, this is what you need to do. So getting advice on a remote basis, rather than waiting for somebody to show up, which may be too late, that's already starting to happen.

Are they forming larger agricultural cooperatives?

Actually, the more interesting thing is, can they form virtual large farms in terms of buying, in terms of contracting, in terms of selling? The virtual cooperative is the way they will go. I don't think we will have consolidation of farms, but what you will have is consolidation of buying, consolidation of selling, consolidation of knowledge and transfer of knowledge best practices because people are allowed to own that piece of land, even though it is small.

Do you think the spread of this way of looking at opportunity will be driven by the big corporations that see this opportunity or by people in poverty situations who will make the demand themselves?

The reality is all the above. I find large numbers of local companies seeing this as an opportunity and becoming very tough competitors for multinationals. I also see multinationals adjusting their strategies in these countries. Unilever, for example, sees India as an opportunity to experiment for India-like markets. If you're successful in India, then what you learn can be taken to Brazil, to China, to Indonesia, to the Philippines, to South Africa. So you suddenly find a lot of experimentation in one country leveraged in other countries. We have an estimate that there are four billion people who live in this condition. So if you figure out how to do it one place, variants of that could be done in other parts of the world.

For example, for a long time Unilever did not compete in the market in India for detergent because they thought it was cheap. (I shouldn't use the word "cheap"—a detergent oriented towards the bottom of the pyramid market. It's just a different formulation.) So Unilever's competition built a huge business. To give you an idea, the high-end market was at that time 25,000 to 30,000 tons, and the low-end market was getting to be around 200,000 tons. So Unilever said this makes no sense. They went and figured out how to participate in that market.

So they created a new category of detergents called Wheel. Today it is the largest single brand in their portfolio in India, and they sell 300,000 to 400,000 tons. And the total market has become more than 1 million tons. Unilever took their knowledge to Brazil before the competition started there, and they started a runaway success. Now they're taking that knowledge to Indonesia and to China.

There is a global market here, and if you can experiment in one, then you can learn how to take it other places. So it's the large global company, it's the large local company, it is totally entrepreneurial—even startups—and it's individual entrepreneurs all working in an ecosystem. I don't see it coming from any one place. Some innovations come from large companies, some from small companies. But you have to be close to that market, you have to understand what the underlying logic is.

Next Page: Do multinational companies get it?

What Multinationals Understand

What percent of multinationals do you think get this and understand this? Is it very rare?

It's not 100 percent of them that get it, but a fair number do. This will not be big news for P&G. This is not big news for Hewlett-Packard. This will not be big news for Microsoft, DuPont, Citicorp, Unilever obviously, British Petroleum, Visa.

But intellectually understanding the opportunity is different from putting resources behind it. I think if you ask me how many people understand the opportunity, maybe 20 percent. How many people are putting resources right now, not in terms of money but in terms of good management talent, maybe half of those. So this is a fairly early stage of trying to understand a new opportunity.

Is there any pattern in terms of the champions at these companies who are getting it and are being catalysts in their companies to make this happen? Does it tend to be a particular type, does it come from the CEO, does it come from someone in marketing, does it come from someone in technology?

My sense is that it certainly is not coming necessarily from marketing and technology and so on. They're all necessary conditions for making it happen, but typically it's people who are between 40 and 50, who come from the very, very top of the organizations, not the CEO yet, but pretty close.

I find many of them are asking the question, "What is the real meaning of what I'm doing?" And when they get this argument, it doesn't take them a long time to gravitate rapidly to saying, "Here is a place where I can use the resources, the scale, and the scope that's available to me in my large company to make a distinct difference to the lives of millions of people, not in a philanthropic fashion, or because of social responsibility, but through active creation of markets and entrepreneurship." You need somebody who has thought about it not only intellectually but emotionally, too. Somebody who has come to terms with this, and not because they think, "I have guilt, I have to do something," but instead, "I see an opportunity, I can do something." And, incidentally, the social benefits are huge.

If you look at the pressures that are taking place, every company now is supposed to have a double bottom line or a triple bottom line. They're getting environmentally conscious, worried about sustainable development. They're getting a lot of pressure on labor reform from around the world. There's a pressure there to respect human rights, respect labor laws around the world.

The circumstances are right, and it's just a matter of time. I believe five years down the road we will not have this discussion. People will say that's obvious.

But you have to be on the ground to see the opportunities. You mentioned Citigroup. Citigroup famously infiltrated internationally for decades and decades and decades.

An example: Citigroup just got back into Mexico, though just to manage remittances. And if you think of remittances, that's poor people from Mexico working in this country and sending and money to poor people there. So the remittance business is a bottom-of-the-pyramid market. And it's a $10 billion business just from the U.S. to Mexico. Around the world, it's a $168 billion business.

And the patterns are very interesting. I mean, more money goes from developed countries to developing countries than any aid. But it's a big business that's kept very quiet. It was either illegally done, or it was done by Western Union at fairly high prices. Now banks are saying, "Hey, there's a lot of money to be made if we can control both sides.

So Western Union is going to be cut out of this?

They're not going to keep charging those prices. Now Western Union has a huge infrastructure; it's not going to disappear. But so does Visa, so does MasterCard. So does Citibank. So does HSBC. The question is who is going to go and build a moneymaking operation to serve people conducting low-value transactions? And it's all about infrastructure. It's about technology. It's about security. It's about privacy. It's about authentication. You have to deal with people who may not be able to read, therefore, is it voice activation, is it authentication, is it biometric authentication? Should it be iris recognition, should it be fingerprint? It brings to the fore the technical questions that we have pushed under the table in this country.

Has anybody deployed that way?

A company called Electra in Mexico. It's a $2.5 billion retailer. It also has a bank where poor people can come and borrow money, and the ATMs there use a biometric ID, which is a fingerprint. And it has to be quite sophisticated, because it has to get infrared ID. They get people with dirty hands working in the field. You have to penetrate that and still see the correct identifiers. Now is it 100 percent? It may not be. But it's something that works. Otherwise, you can't even get them into the system. It's a $2.5 billion business. It's not a small business.

Have there been any people who are responsible for thinking through technology, who have also had this social awareness and have been the catalyst in their organizations?

Not a particular person in a company. It's not that they don't exist, but I have not necessarily gone out there looking for this person. What I find interesting is how the CIOs have to rethink deployment of technology for these kinds of businesses. For example, making sure power exists 100 percent of the time, or at least most of the time, is a nontrivial test.

Simple things like that can appear obvious, but they're not. There's a lot of know-how that has to be built on how do you get robust systems. I call them hybrid systems. You take a regular PC and ruggedize it—what things do you have to add so that it functions under these conditions? It's quite complicated. Now do I know of a person by name? No. But I can describe the IT problems, the IT challenges. Even just getting authentication for a bank transaction or any kind of financial transaction.

And how to build an inexpensive ATM. Again, there's a lot of experimentation saying that while in the West we are adding more and more features to ATMs, we should build an ATM for these places where it does the minimum amount of functions such as dispensing cash, accepting checks and notes of various denominations and counting them in real time, and only dispensing cash and nothing else. A lot of experimentation is going on. It's not a done deal yet.

Next Page: Is market research where it needs to be?

Market Research

Are companies engaged in a lot of market research at this level?

More now than ever before. And I think a lot of people are also that traditional approaches to market research may be inadequate. You ask questions and you want to get answers. Focus groups are fine, but in many cases we don't know what questions to ask. Focus groups assume that you know what questions to ask, but if you go to a place like this, you don't know. So I think there is more desire to do things like video ethnography, where you'll just go and film a day in the life of Mary or Joe and then come back and process that to find out how do they use products, what functions they perform, how much time, where do they perform it, what are the problems that they have.

So there's an even earlier level of understanding. Market understanding is quite important here. And also how to use anthropologists, how to use local communities as ways to interpret what's going on, because some of it is ritual, some of it is functional, and the ritual and the functional are commingled, so you have to separate the two in order to build products.

If you look at The Body Shop, they always travel with an anthropologist and a chemist. The anthropologist to interpret the ritual and the chemist to extract the active ingredient, and then, after that, it's simple. That is the kind of thinking that we need, people who can decode the ritual from the function.

Can the aid foundations that have had a lot of experience working in some of these more remote areas be partners in some way?

They can, hopefully, be very interesting partners, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and aid organizations. But ideologically they don't like companies to get involved. Not all of them, but some of them. So that is a huge intellectual and philosophical divide.

Are they competitors?

In a funny way they are. I don't know whether you're asking the question, but I'll give a candid answer. If you convert poor people into consumers, and they come out of poverty even partially, then what is the role for NGOs and aid organizations? In other words, they've used them as a constituency and wrapped themselves around the problem. And if you remove the problem or reduce the problem, their importance goes away. In a funny sense, poor people have become a battleground between the private sector changing through entrepreneurship, and aid organizations trying to change it through subsidies and developmental aid and hand-holding.

The goal of our efforts should be to take the pyramid and make it into a diamond where the bulk is in the middle, called the middle class, and they'll always be some people at the bottom of the pyramid. There'll always be some in the top of the pyramid, that's the nature of human existence. But if you can get most of them to be in the middle, that should be our goal.

Having done this research and coming to where you are now in your thinking, where do you want to go next with it?

I think the next piece for me is really thinking about global restructuring of industries and how that's going to change again the face of the relationship with countries and people and employees. I think these days you guys call it outsourcing. I think it's just such a ridiculous, simple-minded view. And the chorus is all thanks to Lou Dobbs and others. The chorus is all politically motivated, not informed with information and data. And it's all about cost. I don't think it will work. And people don't talk about quality, they don't talk about process innovation. They don't talk about new structures of analytics.

What do you mean by new structures of analytics?

For example, if I need an investment analysis of a firm, I can call Office Tiger in India and get that analysis done in two hours by equally well-trained people using new systems of analytical tools. You can't do that here even if you're sitting in the next office. So if I want to get speed and I want to have a real-time reaction, I can get it out of India today the same quality of analytical work, or better, because they can employ Ph.D's in mathematics just as well as we can. So the global restructuring is what the debate ought to be, and how innovation is taking place, but, instead, it's all around cost.

You talk to anybody, you know all the CIOs, the guys who have done it for three or four years will tell you they're getting better satisfaction, better quality, better response from good companies. There's a tremendous variance in the quality of companies in India as well, but if you're working with a good company, like Infosys, or Wipro, or TCS, or Satyam, or Putney Computers, you get very, very good service, much better than they can get here.

And so what happens, all the states get upset and somebody in the U.S. says, "We are going to give it to Accenture." They say thank you. Where does Accenture do the work? Very same places. Who are you kidding?

So you give it to Accenture or IBM, Indian companies are equally happy—IBM has to go back to them anyway. So I think people are not asking the question, is the magnet more than cost? Why is this happening so rapidly? With all the political upheaval, there's more transfer of what's going on, and people need to ask why are companies doing it. There is more R&D work moving to India than just comes from software. More legal work moving to India.

Next Page: Getting U.S. companies to rapidly inlvolve theselves in the potential market.


.S. Companies"> What do you think this portends for companies in the U.S.

If I were give advice to a U.S. company, it would be to move rapidly to exploit the opportunity and to learn how to do it. Because if you don't, European and Japanese companies will get there ahead of you. Just because you don't want to do it, doesn't mean others are going to stop. It's like saying there's water up there—you can contort the pipes as much as you want, but the water will finally come down.

Ten years ago, we didn't know the benefits of moving manufacturing to China. Now we get a $39 DVD. And we also sell more Boeing aircraft. A China that is not prosperous will not buy Dell computers, or Caterpillar tractors for construction, or Guardian glass, or Boeing aircraft.

And the BOP [bottom of the pyramid] markets well actually make companies stronger. You cannot sell into those markets without innovating. So in order to sell those markets, American companies will have to innovate, and those innovations can come back here as well.

If you read through this book, creating that for poor people is what it is. It's access and transparency through technology and dialogue mediated by technology, but not only by technology. But in the village they can have a dialogue without the technology. But across villages they need the technology, and, therefore, they can make their own risk-benefit assessment. It's exactly the same.

You just need the access.

That's right, access and transparency are crucial.

Are any of the hardware companies trying to make technology available?

A lot. AMD's in a massive project to build a simple computer for them, $200 or something like that. There's a company called Simputer—simple computer—in India, and they're trying to do it for a hundred bucks.

Sounds like a huge opportunity.

Tremendous. I'm so excited because I think the opportunity is real and big, and none of us know how big it is. And after all, creating the capacity to consume is our job as managers. Selling to the rich is a no-brainer. They have the money and they can afford to spend it. But selling to the poor, and making sure they will be able to buy what you're selling—that's tougher.

At a Glance

Background: C.K. Prahalad's motives in writing The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid were complex. "As I was doing this work, it became obvious that this is the most untapped and interesting opportunity in the world—not only because it's a growth opportunity but because it's also an opportunity to change the way inequality in the world exists. By helping poor people become active participants in the global marketplace, we can change the levels of inequality in the world."

Career Highlights: C.K. Prahalad is the Harvey C. Fruehauf Professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He specializes in corporate strategy and the role of top management in diversified multinational corporations. He received a B.Sc. from the University of Madras in 1960.

This article was originally published on 10-01-2004