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India The Innovator…….Gathers Momentum These last few years have seen Innovation in India reach a tipping point. The emergence of Innovative Indian companies, the large-scale social Innovations and now the big impact innovations in public service.

The biggest paradigm shift gathering momentum is the one from India the follower to India the Innovator. In Corporate India, this was pioneered Companies like Nirma, it is now growing into a movement with entrepreneurial firms like CavinKare, Sukum

Inventers & Subex and

established groups & organisations like TATAs and Reliance. This is showing up as a growing confidence in Indian organisations, the confidence that they can take on and ‘Out - innovate global competition’. It has even lead to an association like INSSAN the Indian National Suggestions Schemes Association to dare to think beyond the Japanese TQM Model and initiate a Quantum Innovation Model in place of incremental innovation - Challenging a Japanese manufacturing model would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

This shift is also increasingly evident in the backend service providers. Especially in the Software services Sector, where more and more companies are getting restless at being ‘merely low cost service providers’. As a Manager put it ‘we service R&D clients, forget doing Research, we are now stuck to delivering at the last end of the Development cycle, we want to change this. We not only want to be in Research, but want to lead it.’

This need to leapfrog is not limited to Indian companies but very visible in Indian arms of MNC’s too. Bosch India moved from maintaining the old Diesel Technology platform to transforming it, to reach the new Euro Emission norms at much lower costs. Honeywell, Bangalore Centre lead the drive to move from being just a low software service provider to becoming a Product Innovator. They lead the creation of a Breakthrough security product that the Global organisation has now launched in all its markets. The India Centre is now being seen an emerging ‘Product Innovation Hub’.

‘Innovating to leapfrog the value chain’ is also increasingly evident in the operational services divisions of International Banks in India and Auto component suppliers.

The Innovation pinnacle is the emergence of ‘New to the World’ Innovations; - Business Models, products and technologies. A decade ago, an Indian firm would be happy with the claim ‘New to India’ but now there are a number of firms claiming breakthroughs that are ‘New to the World’. This includes established organisations like Bharti , Reliance & Tata Steel and emerging firms like Tutor Vista, Perfinct Healthcare – PIGA-CT,


Technology and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.

For Business Model Innovation, India is fast emerging as the new Global Hub. Bharti’s Business Model Innovation that has lead to it becoming the lowest cost producer of minutes with the biggest market share in India is the new role model.

Tutor Vista is the latest Business Model Innovation, they have pioneered an internet based Business Model and made ‘Personalized Tutoring’ globally economical and flexible. Today, 3 years after inception, Tutor Vista has nearly 2000 teachers spread over 98 cities working from home, teaching over 20,000 students, over the internet, in 48 different countries. One school in the US has no maths teacher, 30 teachers from India go online everyday in the second period to teach math. This is Business Model Innovation at its best. They have channelized the unleveraged teaching talent in India-educated women who have chosen to be home makers - and make personal tutoring available at 15% of the normal international tutoring price. One process breakthrough is that ‘in case of a connection failure the student needs to wait only for a maximum 1 minute before another teacher takes over seamlessly’.

Multinationals who had largely followed the traditional and even imperialistic approach of ‘create an offering for the Developed markets and then adopt it to the India Market are also now beginning to change’. A number of them are now into ‘Create the new in India and take it to the world’. Philips was an early starter, GE’s Mac 400 (WIPRO, GE) – a new product has emerged from this new approach. Multinationals like Unilever, Max New York Life are rapidly adopting this approach.

India, as a country is surrounded with challenges that demand. Innovative non-linear solutions, challenges like poverty, education, healthcare and environment. Here too the Innovation is beginning to happen.

A visible change has come about in how Corporates approach rural markets. Earlier the focus was merely penetration ‘find ways to get into uncovered markets’. There is now a visible shift to Inclusive Growth. From ‘get a share of the rural wallet’ to ‘first increase the size of the wallet and the take a share of it’. A number of groups & organisations like Tata Chemicals, Rallis, Mahindra Farm Equipment & DCM are experimenting with Innovative models for this true form of inclusive Growth. Innovation for Inclusive Growth was pioneered by ITC ABD; E-Chaupal has innovated further and transformed from its first Version to Version 2 and is now going into Version 3.

There is an equally strong wave of Innovation for Inclusive Growth that is focussing on environment conservation. Companies like Tata Chemicals & Unilever are leading the way.

Social enterprises too beginning to leverage Innovation. SKS Microfinance has successfully Innovated on the Grameen Bank Microfinance Model. This Business Model Innovation has figured out a unique way to ‘scale up’ the penetration and impact of a Microfinance organisation. SKS has acquired a membership of 5.7 million, across 16 States in 11 years. Akshay Patra is the world’s largest NGO run school meal program – it reaches 10 million children across 5 State of India, six days a week. And they serve freshly cooked meals at Rs.1.50 per meal. This was achieved through a ‘Technological Innovation: to prepare meals on large scale in a short time’ and a ‘logistics innovation - to reach the meals to the schools’. A number of other large scale Innovations like Goonj – creating rural value from urban waste in a manner

that is mutually dignified and MV Foundation – a new way to take kids out of child labour and into schools are bringing through Non-linear solutions for the Country’s huge Developmental challenges.

What’s even more promising is that Government agencies are also leveraging Innovation for Inclusive Growth. The Defence Institute for High Altitude Research – DIHAR

in Ladakh has played an Innovative and

transformational role in accelerating

the socio-economic development of

Ladakh. Many Innovative initiatives like solar energy based -low cost- Green Houses,

zero energy based storage have transformed the vegetable and

animal productivity and output, and even raised the tree line above 13000ft. Further no incident of terrorism has been reported from the region due to improved relations between

government and the army and the local


Jyotigram, the Innovative Power and Irrigation Reform initiative from Gujarat shows how Innovation can be used to tackle the highest and most sensitive issues in a inclusive manner. This Innovation has reduced electricity distribution losses from 30.64 % to 21.8%. It revived a bankrupt electricity board, 9% of rural households have noted an increase in electricity bills. Gujarat has become the only State whose ground water balance has turned positive in recent years.

Karnataka partnered with the Azim Premji Foundation to Innovate primary education in Government schools. They have instituted an innovative

process to assess the schools capability to build student competencies rather than mere marks. This will lead to many more students passing out of primary school having acquired the basic competencies.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh played a catalyst role in the emergence of a most powerful and innovative healthcare initiative – EMRI. This is the world’s largest and the only free emerging response service. Through ambulances, an emergency response centre and pre-hospital care this initiative is helping save almost 3 lakh lives per month.

The growing Innovation momentum in Corporates, Social Enterprises, NGO’s and Government agencies is beginning to have a significant impact. More and more organisations have embedded Innovation cells into their organisation structure.

Recognising this, Government of India, through the Planning Commission is integrating an Innovation acceleration thrust into the next Five Year Plan. State Governments are also exploring ways to institutionalize and accelerate innovation.

This gathering momentum reinforces my belief that ‘Innovation must be for India, what quality was for Japan a transforming agent’. Let’s build this momentum to the point it makes India’s Innovative Development a Global role model.

Rajiv Narang Chairman & Managing Director, Erehwon Innovation Consulting

India the Innovator  
India the Innovator  

The evolution and growth of Innovation in India