A little known secret about a source of breakthrough innovations

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When we think of breakthrough innovations, we may assume that they originate from developed countries such as the United States, Europe and Japan. Sure, these countries come up with innovative products and services all the time to reach mass consumer and global business markets. But the problem for innovations exported from these countries is that products and services are often high-value and high cost – a difficult proposition to penetrate markets in brutal recessionary times.

Where is the competitive edge in today’s innovations? What countries are leading the field in new products and services relevant for times when pockets and budgets are tight?

On a visit to India, it was amazing to learn how this country’s innovations are finding their way into world markets. The Economic Times reported now historically multinational companies designed products in developed markets and adapted them for the rest of the world. Now increasingly low-cost, high value products developed primarily for emerging markets are graduating to the developed world. Breakthrough innovation through Indian frugal engineering skills means that products such as the Nano could be launched as an upgraded version in developed markets.

What are some of the spectacular innovations being produced in India? Ford’s Figo and Toyota’s Etios are examples of India-designed low-cost cars. Nestle has a high-nutrient, low-cost variant of Maggi noodles developed for the rural poor in India and Pakistan soon to be exported to Australia and New Zealand. General Electric has made a cheaper, stripped down version of its ECG and ultrasound machines. Kentucky Friend Chicken (KFC) Krushers is a range of new beverages. McDonald’s Aloo Tikki Burger is another value-for-money product. HP Labs India launched SiteOnMobile which enables web access from low-end phones without GPRS connectivity. Indian business people have developed many other products including low-cost water purifiers that are now being exported to world markets.

The story of India’s innovation is one of a country determined to find solutions that are suitable for local conditions in quality, cost and value for money. It also demonstrates that innovation knows no borders, nationalities and culture. Ideas are to be found wherever people are who have a passion to improve, grow and develop.

In a world where challenges such as global warming, poverty, social breakdown, high unemployment, inferior government education and stratospherically high cost medical care are ever present, new ideas and innovation are required for consumers and business markets where cost and value-for-money is an increasing requirement. Sharp entrepreneurs can take advantage of the opportunities that these circumstances present.

What is the source of all this innovation? Multinational corporations are developing products and services in emerging markets adapted to local conditions. Local companies are also developing solutions suited to local circumstances and are beginning to export them.

There must be more to this innovation. What lies beneath the surface? What is driving this phenomenon? Education for one thing. India is producing thousands of qualified engineers, providing a rich source of technically skilled people who can apply their ingenuity to generating low-cost, high value products that provide convenience and superior quality and performance.

What lessons does such innovation hold for other countries, other communities and individuals who have been caught in corporate downsizing, factory and mine closures and family businesses that have gone belly up in the vicious worldwide recession? Wherever we are, in whatever country or community, we should be aware of the opportunities that our local innovations have for export markets.

Innovation requires experimentation, new ways of thinking and seeing, envisaging new possibilities, re-imagining products and services that have become too costly. Today’s breakthrough innovations require products and services that offer optimum utility and performance. As Michael Michalko in “Cracking Creativity” says, “Each time you look at a problem in a different way, you increase your probability of discovering the unique perspective or insight that will lead to the breakthrough idea.” India’s innovation is a call to action, an inspired story of people generating ideas, commercialising their innovations and taking them to the marketplace in a world hungry for innovative products and services that cost less but provide greater value.

Copyright 2010 Bell & Cray Business Research™. This excerpt has been used by special permission from Bell & Cray Business Consulting™. Bell & Cray Business Consulting™ is a division of Bell & Cray™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

Copyright 2010 Bell & Cray Business Research™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

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