Jun 25, 2006

Some viewpoints on Indian Innovation

From the Businessworld issue on Indian innovation (regd. required)

Vijay Govindarajan, argues that Indians are innovative; even villagers are used to doing more with less. But Indian companies lack the will to innovate.

Indian companies are prone to imitate practices from their western counterparts. Says Arun Maira, chairman, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), India and member, Innovation for India-Marico Foundation: “These may not be the right practices for our context, so we may not get the result.”

R.A. Mashelkar, director general, CSIR has long argued, society is reasonably ambivalent to the need for innovation in India. In an interview to BW in 2002 (see ‘Think Differently!’, 4 February 2002) he had said: “What we need is to get the entire society on board — administrators, educationists, ordinary people. We need to launch a national innovation movement.”

Nirmalya Kumar, professor of marketing at the London Business School, says “One must remember that while manufacturing is often in low-cost countries, innovation is kept closer to home by developed countries as it is considered their competitive advantage,” he says. In other words, if India has ambitions of becoming an economic superpower, it needs to match, if not beat the developed nations at the innovation game.

Madhukar Shukla, professor at XLRI, says not much is being done to address this segment of the market: “There is a vast market at the bottom of the pyramid. It also makes business sense.” One derivative of the bottom-of-the-pyramid mindset is the emphasis most Indian companies have begun paying to thrift. And that, in turn, have made many of them globally competitive, especially in manufacturing. XLRI’s Shukla, argues that even if India were to create an iPod, lack of marketing muscle would not allow it to exploit the global market. “The XP launch cost Microsoft close to $800 million. Can any Indian company match that?” he says.