Friday, July 13, 2007

Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid - What I liked and what I didn't

As I wrote in my earlier post, I read C. K. Prahalad's thoughts on Eradicating Poverty Through Profits through the lenses of the book titled "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" ( Wharton School Publishing).
As is my habit, I started by reading the preface where I was pleasantly surprised to see the name of a former colleague of mine, Praveen Suthrum, who went to be Dr. Prahalad's student and contributed to this book.
The central premise of this book appears to be that one need not be in the developed world to create a world class enterprise - there are companies that have created a niche in their own ways wherever they are. And while doing things differently, they have not sacrificed the profit motive - they are hugely successful, famous and respected.The book has studied some very successful and homegrown companies in South America and India and attempted to bring out what made them successful.
This book is a break for Indian B-School students, who for generations have been fed on cases from the west. This covers companies such as Casa Bahia ( Brazilian Retailer ), (CEMEX Cement Manfuacturer- Mexico), quite a bit on HLL, Jaipur foot, Aravind Eye care, ITC e-Chaupal etc from a social transformation point of view.
But with due respect to CKP's scholarship and the initiative, few words on the editing. If a book calls Sankara Nethralaya as Shankar Netralaya (page 106) , Doordarshan as Doordharshan (somewhere), starts talking about a name( Dr Pramanik) on page 177 and tells his introduction only on page 184. As the saying goes, another pair of eyes never hurt. The language inconsistency is all too apparent as one reads this. The text often appears disjointed in the central message is lost in the verbosity of dry text. Somewhere, you feel you have to hold your attention too hard to continue to follow.
The video CD that came with the book is much better though. It has short clips shot by the students themselves.

PS: I wonder when will B-Schools in India wake up and start taking up such ambitious and tough projects and be known for this rather than the average salary surveys alone.Salaries go up because industry and the economy are doing well, not because the B-Schools inject any special gene in their students. The silent message from this book is - Good Morning Indian B-Schools.
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