Posted by: qmaxim | September 4, 2012

Innovation and India – long way to go

Last week, Indian industry association (CII)  organised 2 day India innovation summit  in Bangalore. This is  the 8th yearly conference  organised so far and was co-sponsored by govt. of Karnataka of which Bangalore is the state capital. Considering the  importance of  innovation in rapidly globalising world wherein today’s leader can become nobody in no time, there was great deal of interest and hall was filled to capacity. Infosys’s executive chairman Mr Kris Gopalakrisnan took leadership role of the summit. Well known banker  and Infosys chairman Mr K V Kamat delivered keynote address.

Considering that Bangalore is the hub of technology sector in India,  the event was dominated to a large extent by IT, communication and internet.  Many Indian and multinational companies made presentations about their  innovation approaches and  some of them showcased their  offerings.Content was of high quality.

Some examples of significance:

Private sector banks (like ICICI bank of which Mr Kamat was CEO ) developed and  implemented completely new banking technology model  for rapid expansion at fraction of the cost of the existing  technology.

Google labs in India developed Google maps  in which  users can make changes to the map himeself/herself. Developing map is  particularly challenging in developing countries like India as accurate maps are not available in many places. After perfecting the technology in India it was implemented worldwide.

Tata motors’ development of 1 lac (USD$ 2500) car Nano  is well documented.  Most car parts for this vehicle had to be developed  from scratch as existing technologies were simply not cost efficient . Similarly, in another  case of frugal engineering truck maker Ashok Leyland developed a small truck at  one fifth  the cost of  international equivalent.  The product called Dost is a runaway hit.
Toyota motors
company TKM built  a  competitively priced car from scratch called  Etios and is selling well. It started with high level of local content. Many foreign car companies have been  struggling to get configuration of  the low end models  right and have only managed to meet with limited success.

Electric car maker Mahindra Reva  which has been making all electric cars for many years. They have  built new factory with many cutting edge  technologies. Their recent models have  many world class technologies some of them built on wireless technology.

Govt. of Karnataka has  implemented the largest e-tendering site comparable to the best and which has won many accolades. All the govt. purchases and contracts take place only through this website. Challenge of  implementing something of this nature in the govt. sector  cannot be underestimated.

IT outsourcing company  Wipro presented case studies on the technologies related to medical diagnostic field. These technologies  cost much less than the  existing technologies and give equivalent if not better performance. GE’s  Jack Welch technology centre has developed world class healthcare technologies at amazingly low price. Similarly  IBM has developed many  innovative technologies such as for example, for locating power theft which is common in many areas in India.

Cafe Coffee day which is India’s largest Coffee chain explained how they managed stay on top of the pack despite intense competition. Bangalore International airport (BIAL) made a presentation on how they manage to remain the best airport in India & their strategy to become the gateway to south India.

Finally, a young college dropout (in the mould of  Bill Gates or Mark Zukerberg)  told his  story about setting up a mobile internet company  called Innoz technologies.  If user  SMSes his query about any topic  to  the company designated number he receives the answer by SMS.   This is something like internet search query. This is particularly relevant in India as most of the phones are not Internet enabled and  not many people have access to internet enabled computer. The company has answered  millions of queries and has  achieved a  turnover of USD$ 20 million.

The number of patents filed from India has skyrocketed in the last few years and the  support system for innovation has become  readily available. Ready examples of high level of  innovation are IT, telephony.  Is  India the innovation leader in the field?   The answer is No.   There is a long way to go.

Where should India focus its innovation efforts?  India  has many big problems to be solved,  these are obvious areas to focus on. These are in the areas of agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, energy, mining, metals, infrastructure, water management, governance ……
One such example of an  aligned innovation project  is from Tata Steel.  Though India is one of the largest producers of coal in the world, most of the coal has high ash content and has to be blended  with imported coal before being used.  They have developed a technology for using high ash content coal without blending with imported coal.

India can look at other counties for inspiration. For example, South Korea  began by buying technology  in electronics, ship building, Steel, cars  from  technology leaders.  They started by making cheap and good quality imitations  &  have  now progressed being the world  leaders in many of these technologies.

Israel  is another high  technology  innovation leader India can learn from.  With only 7.1 million population and no local market it incubates   2nd largest number of start-up companies in the world. It has developed and implemented  many innovative technologies.  Some of  them have become very big and are ubiquitous in our daily life. Even in  the agricultural field  they are leaders in many technologies even though most of  Israel  has poor quality soil and very little water.


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