“How do you define your spirituality?” asked C. K. Prahalad in early 2003. He was in Madurai addressing Aravind’s second generation of leaders. The founding team sat at one end of the conference room with the anxious air of parents watching their children being quizzed. From the far wall, a photograph of the Mother smiled down on the group, as if in amused anticipation of their answer.

The late Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad was an acclaimed management strategist. His work shone a spotlight on innovative business models that treat the poor not as passive beneficiaries of charity but as customers in an economic marketplace. He deeply admired Aravind’s work and in his own words “tap-danced around its ...

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