CK Prahalad
1941 - 2010

One of the world’s most influential and unique business thinkers, combining the intellectual detachment of a business school professor with the humanity of a social activist. 


Ranked #1 in 2009. 

Previous positions:

#1 (2007), #3 (2005), #12 (2003), #8 (2001). 


Inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame in 2018.  


The Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award is named after CK. 


CK was passionate that his ideas were understood not just by academics and MBAs but by everyone. His ideas were for everyone. “The hidden thread that runs through my work is the idea of the democratization of commerce,” he said. Constantly intellectually curious, CK authored a string of highly influential books and concepts. He introduced core competencies into the management lexicon and his seminal book, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, changed the world’s view of India’s economic potential. 

CK’s later work moved the strategy debate from a product-centred view of value to the concept of cocreation, where consumers actively engage to shape their own personal experiences. Remarkably prescient, CK anticipated the rise of two-sided networks and the effect of large-scale platforms made possible by the internet of things. This would be the glue – the IT architecture that would facilitate cocreation and unlock the mass market at the bottom of the pyramid.


Growing up in India, CK learnt to cope with diversity at a very personal level as a child. He studied physics at the University of Madras (now Chennai) and worked as a factory manager before his thirst for knowledge led him into academia. With a PhD from Harvard, he taught in both India and the USA, eventually joining the faculty of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, where he held the Harvey C Fruehauf chair of Business Administration and then became Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy.
Competing for the Future (co-written with Gary Hamel) was featured on the Thinkers50 Management Classics Booklist in 2023.


‘The Core Competence of the Corporation’ (Harvard Business Review, May–June 1990); Competing for the Future (with Gary Hamel, HBR Press, 1996); The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value With Customers (with Venkat Ramaswamy, HBR Press, 2004); The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing, 2004); The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value Through Global Networks (with MS Krishnan, McGraw-Hill, 2008).

NATIONALITY: Indian-American

Media picks


“It is the only time I can remember a camera crew spontaneously ask for the autograph of a business school professor … he truly spoke to everyone.”

Des Dearlove, Thinkers50, after interviewing CK in 2009

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