Look at some of the most successful corporations around the world, and you'll find one thing that's common to them: they are innovative. They have not just survived in their industries but risen to leadership positions simply because they have been smarter than their competitors. They manage their product pipelines better, their supply chains are leaner and more effective, their people processes attract and retain the best talent, and even in accounting and financing they are innovative without being inventive! In India, innovation is a relatively new concern. The fact that Indian companies now compete against the best of global rivals is, of course, one reason why they are taking innovation much more seriously. The other reason for that is even more significant. A lot of the products and services that are sold elsewhere in the world-and even how they are sold-are not 'India ready'. They need a lot of tweaking and sometimes wholescale low-cost reinvention to be locally relevant.
The point: India is your market only as long as you are able to customise products for it. To find out the state of innovation in India, Business Today tied up with the Monitor Group, founded in 1983 by Harvard Business School's strategy don Michael Porter and his colleague Mark Fuller. The results of our study (Read India's most innovative companies) are fascinating. For instance, the companies that have emerged as the most innovative have a totally different approach to innovation.
As the experts at Monitor write, "the most innovative companies have realised that innovation is not about developing new products and services but, more fundamentally, about discovering new ways to create value". In other words, it's great if you can come up with a breakthrough product like the Tata Nano, but if you can't, then you can still be a Cipla or a Ranbaxy, which didn't invent the AIDS drug but used their skills in chemistry to come up with generic copies that dramatically lowered the cost of therapy for poor patients. Or you can be an Airtel that is so focussed on its "least-cost business model" that it outsources almost every bit of its operations.
Innovativeness is something Tata Motors will have to turn to once again as it brings to its fold two iconic car brands, Jaguar and Land Rover. Bought for $2.3 billion (Rs 9,200 crore), JLR gives Tata Motors access to the top end of the global car market and the know-how that goes into engineering such fine cars (Read In the Driver's Seat ). There are several challenges the acquisition poses for the Indian car maker, but, then, the company that made the Nano probably has challenges for breakfast, lunch and dinner.