Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Invisible Innovations by Indians in India

Can India become a global hub for innovation? 
Nirmalya Kumar, Professor of Marketing, London Business School,  describes four types of "invisible innovation" currently coming out of India and explains why companies that used to just outsource manufacturing jobs are starting to move top management positions overseas, too. (Filmed at TEDxLondonBusinessSchool.)
Thanks to my friend Manjunath who forwarded this TEDx talk to me.

Nirmalya Kumar has taught at Harvard Business School, IMD-International Institute for Management Development  in Switzerland, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He is currently a Professor of Marketing and Co-Director of Aditya Birla India Centre at London Business School. Kumar has served as a consultant to over 50 Fortune 500 Companies, worked on the board of five Indian firms, and has published six books -- including, most recently, India Inside: The emerging innovation challenge to the West. In 2011, Thinkers50 named him number 26 of the “50 most influential management gurus.”

Listen to his TEDx talk at London Business School -
You could also read their (Phanish Puranam and Nimalya Kumar) interview in the business Outlook:
I liked the insights and analysis taht he shared in the TEDx talk - and made some notes out of it - here it is (along with my comments):
Can Indians based out of India do Innovative work ?
If we ask "Why we dont see innovations like Google, iPod or Viagra coming from India ?" - it may not be the right question - because new product innovation is only a small fraction of the entire gamut of innovations.
Innovations that lead to new products and services for end users easily get noticed - but this is only a small fraction - only the tip of the iceberg. There is a large population of innovations that enable bigger innovations in turn - but they remain invisible.
We need to have a broader definition of Innovation
Schumpeter said  "Innovation is Novelty in which Value is created and distributed"
Innovations beyond New Products -  Process innovations, Business Model Innoavtions - Novel ways of organizing firms & industries
Nirmalya Kumar describes four classes of invisible innovations:
Innovation for Business Customers - Made in India, branded elsewhere - ~750 R&D centers set up by MNCs in India - working on innovations for global products - GE, Philips,..  - Quality of innovation in India is the same as those in US - both patents get the same number of forward citations.
Shankar - My experience working for GE & Dow in India confirms this opinion. I have led technology innovation efforts for global lighting products while at GE in Bangalore and later for global catalyst products while at Dow in Pune. Our team could create many high quality patents and build a strong patent portfolio for new products. The globally launched new products had the innovation from the Indian team at the core. A White LED product that won the most innovative new product of the year award at the European Lighting Fair cited the light output stability as the key differentiator. That key performance differentiator was enabled by a material innovation that came from the Bangalore team.
Outsourcing Innovation - value added R&D services on demand - major part of R&D and product development work contracted to India - e.g HCL technologies developed two mission critical systems for Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Collison avoidance system, Landing in Zero Visibility 
Process innovation - injection of intelligence by Indian firms - BPO Call Centers - smart folks - analytical tools for predictive modeling - guess what the phone call is about even before picking up the call
Management Innovation - new ways to organize work - Global  Delivery Model - take up a geographically co-located task - break it into parts - distribute across differents parts of the Globe - where expertise exists & cost structure is attractive - Re-integrate them.
Key Takeaway
India is well represented in the large invisible submerged portion of the innovation iceberg - innovation for new products is only the small visible portion of the innovation iceberg.

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