Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why 'Jugaad' is a narrow perspective on Indian Innovation

Innovation in India and from India is quiet different from those we have come to associate innovation with. Many people ask the question what innovation has India produced? Where is the Google and Facebook? I have stated before that this is a wrong question to ask. Most innovations from India are not directly market driven. For example, a digital signal processing technology that powers a washing machine or home theatre system may come from a company in Bangalore without the owner of the product ever realising that it is powered by Indian technology. Many of the innovations from India are in basic sciences (vaccines, pharma etc.) or what I call embedded technologies, processes and systems. They cannot be seen as Nirmalya Kumar from LBS explains in his Ted talk.

Many recent authors and commentors on Indian innovation have characterised Indian Innovation as "Jugaad", a term used in India to refer either to a low cost vehicle or, more colloquially to a fix-around. This characterisation of innovation not only undermines the value of innovations coming from India, it misrepresents the potential for innovation in India. Improvised arrangement or work-around, do occur in the lower end of the innovation hierarchy, due to lack of resources and particularly directed at solving a local problem but that is not an accurate representation. While Jugaad may happen in India, all Innovations in India are not Jugaad. Three types of innovations take place - there are innovations for global competitiveness, innovations targetted at the domestic market (impacting national gdp) and those for rural market (impacting rural gdp). If you enjoyed reading this, consider buying India's Innovation Blueprint

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Another Independence Day: The numbers show

There is nothing like reviewing the numbers on the 66th independence day. Political and celebration speeches apart, the numbers tell the real story. I updated one of the tables (Table 1.1, page 2) in my book with the latest figures below. So here's how India is doing after 65 years of independence.

Despite India's population quadrupling, its per-capita GDP tripled since independence. Infant mortality has dropped to a third, life expectancy has more than doubled, and the literacy rates have steadily increased 5 times, where 3 out of 4 Indians are literate as opposed to 1 in 10 at independence.

There are notable improvements in the last 5 years. Infant mortality has dropped, literacy has gone up, the number of patents filed at the US PTO has doubled - impressive numbers from an inward perspective. The real measure is how India is doing globally. China, for example, filed three times the number of patents at the USPTO in 2011. For the comparable size China has in terms of population, it scores on every parameter that I have listed. Smaller and war ravaged countries like Korea, Japan and Israel at the time of India's independence dominate the world in several fields, notably in science & technology.

I added India's Olympic rankings to illustrate my point on global benchmarking. India won more medals in the London Olympics than the Beijing Olympics or perhaps any Olympics in the recent past, but that didn't improve its global ranking. Goes to prove that many other nations also did extremely well in the Olympics - global benchmarking is critical. Where can India differentiate itself as a nation globally? If not, India is still playing catch up. As with most G7 countries, 100 years of independence is a reasonable length of time for a nation to achieve these benchmarks. India has less than 35 years to fix itself.
If you enjoyed reading this, consider buying India's Innovation Blueprint

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Do we learn from mistakes?

One of the critical ingredients of an innovation culture is to learn from mistakes. Just last week over 600 million people in northern parts of india were plunged to literal darkness when the national grid tripped twice in the week. The material impact is staggering. Lost of production and productivity was apparent. Some 300 or so long distance trains were stranded.

What do we learn from such massive outages. Will it happen again? Did it trigger the planners to think of contingencies. I wonder. What can we learn from other nations where such outages have occurred? If you enjoyed reading this, consider buying India's Innovation Blueprint