Innovative Indians: Emulate, Innovate, Scale up and Grow

Many countries-Japan, South Korea, and then China have followed the route to get into the league of developed nation. They started with emulation of the practices and systems of the developed countries, be it one from Europe or US, copied rather pirated their products. Very soon they started improving on their own with locally innovated ideas, scaled up the production cutting the cost and started competing.

India failed to do that. Some did try but perhaps halfheartedly and without improving and scaling up the capability to manufacture. Industrialists from Punjab, for example, made many machineries copying from the foreign products. Even today many of the agricultural machineries such as harvesters have reached all over the countries and making a good business, but it couldn’t innovate and upgrade to compete with the products from the industrially developed countries even the Chinese ones. However, things are changing.

As revealed by BSG ‘Innovation 2010: A Return to Prominence – and the Emergence of a New World Order’ report, the companies are increasing their innovation spending and that their satisfaction with the return on innovation spending has climbed. But companies remain somewhat cautious, keeping a close eye on the cost of their innovation activities.

Among the Asian countries, there are five companies from Japan, another five from China and Taiwan, three from South Korea and just two from India.

About 89% of executives in India said innovation was key to economic growth, while in the US only 72% said innovation was important.

In the list of world’s 50 most innovative companies, the Tata Group is placed as the world’s 17th most innovative compared to Mukesh Ambani-led RIL’s 33rd position globally.

However, the recent issue of ‘India Today’ with a special coverage on innovations in India may provide an interesting reading and gives hope of a brighter India. It carries reports in brief about the work of the 20 innovators who are changing our lives. Innovations relate to varied technologies: Ankit Mehta’s Netra, an unmanned aerial vehicle, Nalinaksh Vyas’s nano satellite, Jugnu, Kusumba Sridhar’s online digital signage service, Vishal Mehta’s Infibeam Pi, Puli Ravi Kumar’s car that can run on air, Ashok Jhunjhunwala’s Indradhanu, an automatic weather monitoring system, Kranthi Kiran Vistakula’s temperature controlled apparel, and Amin Ismail Almel’s fake currency detector. It also includes Bhargavan Mohanlal’s very innovative gearbox to go with marine diesel engine, Peesapati Narayana’s edible cutlery, Gandhi Gopalakrishnan’s eco-friendly bricks out of rice husk ash, Virendra Kumar Sinha’s generator’s accessory for cleaning exhaust, Remya Jose’s mechanical washing machine, Dr. Dilip Shrinivas Vilaskar’s rapid thrmbocheck test kit, Ajit Narayanan’s Avaz, a communication device for those with cerebral palsy, Dharamveer Kamboj’s multi-purpose food processing machine that extracts juice as well as serves as pressure cooker, Madhav Sawant’s light emitting energy-saving tiles, Prajapati Mansukhlal Raghavji’s refrigerators and filters out of clay, Dr. Aarti Kinikar’s indigenous nasal bubble and Madhabananda ray’s new tasar yarn reeling machine.

It has another interesting listing of ‘Top 10 innovations of the last decade‘ picked by IIM-Bangalore professor and author of From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation, Rishikesha T. Krishnan. I don’t know if I should agree with that.

BAJAJ PULSAR, 2001: gave India’s youth a blend of style, power and fuel economy.
REVA, 2001: leads the market in “clean” automobiles
ADVANCED LIGHT HELICOPTER, 2002: from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
FUNGISOME, 2002: A liposomal anti-fungal drug developed by Lifecare Innovations.
EDGE, 2002: The world’s slimmest consumer watch by Titan.
PLASTIC BODY INVERTER, 2002 by Su-kam.
AVADIS, 2005: this data analysis software for biologists by Strand Life Sciences
ETHERNET TRANSMISSION ON OPTICAL NETWORKING, 2005 by Tejas Networks
MAHINDRA SHAAN, 2006 with in-built trolley and new design features
TATA NANO, 2009: the world’s best “value for money” car

But I quote India Today’s article that must understood by every Indian.

“The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2007 ranking placed India 57th and China 58th on the innovation scale but predicted, that at the present rate, by 2012, China would be 50th while India would move up only one rank. China, in particular, has overtaken India in technology intensive manufacturing that includes high-tech semiconductors and microchips to become the largest producer of electronics in the world.”

But it can’t be just the enhancement of expenditure on R&D that can bring result. If one looks into the stories of the innovations in India, one can easily find that Indian innovators have not been able to cash on their innovations. Neither Nano nor any of the products have seen mass production anywhere to compete with similar innovations of other countries. Good innovations require excellent manufacturing facilities of world class and scale as well as marketing too. I was shocked to know that Remya Jose’s washing machine couldn’t find market and she is looking for job in UAE. What a shame!

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