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|EDITORIAL: Management Wizard
In his lifetime, management guru C.K. Prahalad reached the pinnacle of global recognition. A management professor and author who popularized the idea that companies could make money while helping to alleviate poverty, Prahalad wrote “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits,” about how companies could tap the poor as customers and improve the lives of millions of impoverished people in developing countries.
His work on how companies should build “core competence” earned him a loyal following in corporate boardrooms around the world.
Prahalad was born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. In the early 1970s he came to the United States and went on to get a doctoral degree in management at Harvard Business School. He became a professor at the University of Michigan, where he taught until his death.
He established a reputation as a formidable business strategist when he started his work on poverty in 1995. Our cover story offers an appreciative profile of Prahalad, who died last month.
One of the nobler tendencies of successful South Asians is their effort to support developmental work in the old country. Notwithstanding some limitations of the community (petty bickering driven by ego, a sad tendency to get caught up in the mean-spirited disruptive politics back home) there are many wonderful examples of people selflessly coming together to support various causes back home.
The many examples that come to mind include the literacy campaign Pratham by expat Indians and the work of the group India Literacy Program, the stellar work for female literacy in Pakistan by the expat Pakistani group DIL.
The Bangladeshi community in the San Francisco Bay Area is relatively smaller in both population and visibility. That’s all the more reason the work of the philanthropic group SpaandanB is so impressive.
The figures speak for themselves: Last year, the group raised a whopping figure of well over $200,000 to support various projects in Bangladesh. It’s a pretty tidy sum for any community; for the relatively small community of Bangladeshis in the Bay Area it says a lot both about the generosity of the community but probably more important, the track record of SpaandanB that has been able to create such a remarkable reservoir of trust and confidence.
SpaandanB’s fundraiser and mela was a typical community event — plenty of mouthwatering ethnic food, a cultural program that especially highlighted children. Sandwiched between the two was a brief, thorough and substantive overview of its activities.
The group has its own office now in Bangladesh, and its programs work in several areas: education, economic self-sufficiency and disaster relief. We carry a detailed article on their event and activities in this month’s issue.
Twenty-five years have passed since a deadly gas leak resulted in the world’s largest industrial disaster in India’s Bhopal. In addition to the immediate death and illness it caused, the after effects of its toxics continue to afflict the people in Bhopal.
Yet the corporate interests that are responsibly have refused to be accountable, and the unfortunate fact is that the Indian government has also been remiss — it certainly has not been as robust in its defense of the citizens of Bhopal as it could have been.
Now, the current frenzy over economic “reforms” and free markets have made the situation worse. In an attempt to lure industries into India, the government appears to forget the responsibility of corporate owners to clean up the mess they make and provide full restitution.
If this is the depressing part of the story, there is, thank goodness, a heartwarming side to it as well. Heartbreakingly tragic though the plight of the people of Bhopal may have been in the wake of the disaster, the event struck a chord in some way — and a global fraternity of activists have sprung up who have been steadfast in their solidarity with the Bhopal victims over the decades, and who refuse to go away.
So on a sunny day in the picturesque Lake Merritt area of Oakland, Calif., literally a world away from Bhopal, a diverse group of demonstrators protested against Dow Chemical’s attempt to hide behind the rubric of a series of events to raise awareness about the environment.
The protest worked.
Public protests also took place at several Dow Live Earth events including in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. The events in London, Milan, and Berlin were entirely cancelled while the organizers in Chennai, India, and in Sweden continued with the events after disassociating Dow from them.
A San Jose, Calif.-based activist writes about Dow and Bhopal in this month’s issue.