If corporate buzzwords were ice cream flavours, innovation would be the most in demand cone today. Some think innovation is about breaking new ground like, say, the bottom-of-the-pyramid markets . Many multinational companies think re-purposing their products for affordability is innovation. Others see it in everyday life: a direct-seeding machine that plants rice seeds six inches deep, eliminating the need for flood irrigation in fields. Or, the much chronicled jugaad tractor which has a water pump as its engine. Yet others equate innovation with fundamental research and technology advances.
The bean-counting types see innovation in cash flows: reducing receivables or increasing credit periods, for instance. And the more cerebral among them call for business model innovations: ingenious tweaks or overhauls of the way business is done so that it yields more.
Much before innovation became the buzzword it is today, Business Today tracked it with the rigour it deserves. In our first special issue on innovation, which featured a study partnering consultancy firm, Monitor Group, in April 2008, we identified 28 companies that "did things differently".
One no longer exists (Air Deccan was bought in a fire sale), another has new owners (Ranbaxy), and Jet Airways is hobbling along. Barring these, the remaining are doing reasonably to spectacularly well. (Check out who else made it to the list)
Best innovation cases