Indian Innovation

India and Innovation have the first 2 characters the same, but in reality there is huge gap between both. I was just watching the Bollywood movie “Guru” based on the life of Dhirubai Ambani, who started off as a small time worker with Arab merchants in the 1950s and moved to Mumbai in 1958 to start his own business in spices. After making modest profits, he moved into textiles and opened his mill near Ahmedabad. Dhirubhai founded Reliance Industries in 1958. After that it was a saga of expansions and successes; By 2007 the combined fortune of the family (sons Anil and Mukesh) was 60 billion dollars, making the Ambani’s the second richest family in the world.

So what happened to the rest of them ? Since then there have not been too many businessmen or innovators that have come out of India, there was of course the occasional Mr. Narayan Murthy and Mr. Azim Premji, who took 15 years to build an IT empire but there have not been too many innovations. I guess there is one question that people keep asking within the IT community – “Why we don’t hear Google/Twitter like stories from India?” After all India is the global superpower in computing these days or at least thats what we like to say.  We have always been a service oriented company and not product based. Why don’t we have a Office package from India, or a Programing language from India ? I guess its because deep down we Indians are people who like security in jobs and so we do not venture into the unknown of business, innovation and startups. One of my favorite blogs at the moment, pluggd.in writes this :

For India to find its place in the sun in the years to come, R&D based excellence – or, innovation based solutions – is mandatory. That if India’s destiny lay in just being a low cost supplier of the world’s goods and services, then the tryst with that destiny would be short -lived. But if India’s destiny lies in being an international leader in the supply of goods and services then it has no choice but to embrace innovation and R&D based excellence.

Over the past 57 years, India’s share in world trade has shrunk from over 2% to about 0.6% today. Of India’s top items of merchandise export are in traditional commodity items like textiles, gems and jewelry, leather, chemicals, engineering goods, minerals, and agroproducts. The value-added by India in the commodity items is minimal and hence prone to significant international price pressures. Due to the lack of investments and innovation along the entire value-chain, from design to marketing to technology to the business model itself, these industries capture just a tiny share of their global markets. These industries have grown in large part due to the natural advantages enjoyed by India of which an abundant supply of low cost labour is a significant part. In the world of tomorrow, innovation has to take centre-stage if these industries are to have positions of dominance on the world stage.

Non-traditional businesses like IT services and pharmaceuticals have grown significantly in the last decade and are now recognized as having “arrived” on the global stage. Both these businesses are knowledge driven and employ a significantly different profile of employees than the traditional businesses. It is therefore imperative that with their arrival on the global stage, with their access to world class talent and capital, cost & quality led advantages, and with high global demand, they do not become complacent and lose their leading positions much like the traditional businesses have done.

With over 300,000 engineers graduating each year, India is sitting on a human capital goldmine that most countries can only dream about. However, the issue of global leadership isn’t one that’s only about numbers. After all, with only 7000 engineers graduating each year, Israel with 6.5m people has over 100 innovative companies listed on Nasdaq! And India with over 250m head of cattle – the world’s largest – is not even a player in the global dairy business!

Things are not all bad though, Pluggd.in reports on the new Startups that are getting churned out of  India. In fact this is also being highlighted by Discovery channel who is showcasing a few of the innovations coming out of India. Small but still Innovative.

Pomogranate Seed seperator

Mobile Operated Switches for remote operation

Mini Wind powered Mobile Charger Unit

Tree climbing Apparatus / Mini Washing Machine / Modified Scooter / Amphibious Bicycle

There are more videos at the MissionPacific channel of Youtube. I am not sure if many people know about these innovations in the country, and about how many venture capitalists / innovators who are willing to take up some of these devices for production in the huge market that is India.

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