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India Business Forum: When entrepreneurs discuss Disruptive Innovation

Jessica Hines     May 19, 2016

Every year London puts Indian business in the spotlight in at the India Business Forum hosted by the London School of Business. The theme this year was Disruptive Innovation: Changing Business Landscapes in the 21st Century. There was an impressive line-up of speakers including Sanjeev Bikhchandani the co-founder of Naukri, Dr Janmejaya Sinha the Chairman of BCG Asia Pacific and Tom Albanese the CEO of Vedanta Resources to frame the more free-style panel discussions that highlighted some areas that disruption is most readily found.

The opening panel was on Start Ups where people who had made it big offered motivational encouragement to those just starting out. Dharpan Sanghvi from MyGlammn urged people to, 'Stay in the game. Dream the game. When the game arrives then live, breathe and believe in the game and it will happen.' This should surely be written in cursive font and pinned onto Instagram boards for #motivationalmondays.

Disruptive Innovation could really be a short hand for the way Indian companies have always had to operate. Many of the big companies were born in tricky times and this ability to see ways through problems and find the space where business can thrive still carries on through to today's more bilious times. There is a 'can-do' attitude from the bottom to the top that there isn't in other markets in the world. There is a ready acceptance of the need to be scrappy, and that it is better these days to set out to be a cockroach rather than a unicorn.

There was an unspoken understanding that the disruptors and business unicorns or cockroaches would be men. Is this reflected in the startup landscape? Rahima Valji from the Indian Angels Network said, "whilst it's true that presently, the startup scene does seem to be dominated by male entrepreneurs, we are also increasingly seeing more applications from women entrepreneurs."

She went on to say, "in India, the growth in the number of Indian startups is huge - growing from 3100 startups in 2014 to 11500 as projected in 2020, so the percentage still remains low."

There was an in-absentia felicitation of Rana Kapoor the MD & CEO of YES Bank for "Exemplary Contribution to Entrepreneurship and Innovation." This was received by Namita Viaks the Group President, Responsible Banking and Chief Sustainably Officer for Yes Bank. Afterwards we asked her if there could be innovation without development, perhaps the real disrupter that needed to happen in India is a radical shift in the status quo.

"Real innovations have to impact real economy," she replied. "India today needs disruptive innovations that are unique, scalable and sustainable to challenge social status and those that would uplift 21% population in India that lies in poverty."

Perhaps the real disrupter would be a radical shift in the social status quo? Namita concurred, 'Important to ensure that innovations' ultimate objective is overall development, with a business case to ensure private sector participation to address wider economic, social and environmental parameters.'

After lunch there was a 'Fireside Chat' with Karan Thapar from India Today Group whose reputation for hard-hitting questions didn't disappoint as he challenged the government on the sudden burst of occurrences such as the beef ban and asked if this is a coincidence or is by a design.

The mood was lightened by the panel on disruption in the media with social media star Miss Malini, Rohan Joshi from AIB and Devraj Sanyal form Universal Music had them rolling in the aisles.

Is there a role for true comedic anarchy in business? Rohan Joshi said,
"I think most companies that claim to embrace the inner madness and playfulness of the members of their workforce are just lending the issue token lip service in order to sound appealing to a young, modern workforce. Sadly, most companies think embracing the fool means plying their workforce with unlimited alcohol at the half-yearly corporate retreat."


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