The Innovation Practitioner Sessions kicked off on Monday July 25th 2011 at IIT Bombay, in association with the IITB-Monash Research Academy.
These sessions are open discussions and real conversations around how to implement innovation and is designed to provide innovation enthusiasts an opportunity to interact and engage with an interesting mix of investors, innovators and thought leaders from the Business and Social sector who have led high-impact innovation projects within their space.
The Keynote speaker at the Mumbai session was Dr. Makarand Phadke, Senior Vice President, Reliance Innovation Council, and the panelists included Mr. Bharat Kapadia – Former Director at Divya Bhaskar; Mr. Noshir Colah -Executive Director at Aavishkaar Venture Management Services; Mr. Anshu Gupta – Founder of the NGO GOONJ; Prof. Mohan Krishnamoorthy – CEO at the IITB-Monash Research Centre. The entire discussion was moderated by Innovation Alchemy CEO, Parvathi Menon.
Seats were sold out 2 days before the event and more slots were added to the online registration to accommodate everyone. The response was overwhelming and 150 innovation enthusiasts registered for the event online! Attendees were asked to bring along a print out of their registration tickets and it was very exciting to see the number of people who actually made the long journey to the IITB campus in Powai, Mumbai. The buzz outside the Victor Menezes Auditorium was tremendous, and IIT professors and students plus representatives from organizations like Dasra India, The Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce, Deloitte, Ernst and Young and many more were present at the session.
The session began with a keynote address from Dr. Phadke on Reliance’s Innovation Council, its strategy and his insights on the Indian Innovation Ecosystem. Dr. Phadke, who also happens to be an Alumnus of IIT B, remarked on how happy he was to come back to IITB, especially to share his learning as a professional and practitioner many years after having been a student here.
In his discussion, Dr. Phadke pointed out how innovative organizations like Apple, Google and Microsoft cultivate, implement and encourage innovation. These 3 organizations were consistently appearing on the top of innovation lists for many years in a row and he highlighted that the only Indian organization to make this list was TATA Motors in 2008 and questioned why this was so and how we can change that. He expressed the need to develop a rich, inclusive Innovation Ecosystem that would enable more to happen in this space in India. The Reliance Innovation Council, a group of powerful thought leaders help shape the organization’s innovation policy and strategy, and is a key ingredient of the Reliance Innovation Ecosystem. Dr. Phadke provided great insight into the modules of the Reliance Innovation Council and how it works, particularly the Innovation Combat Teams, Venture funds and the Innovation Pipeline. “Innovation can and must be managed as a process,” remarked Dr. Phadke, and like any management process, is critical to the growth of an organization.
Following this the 4 panelists took centre stage and Parvathi Menon moderated the discussion by asking each panelist specific questions on their roles, challenges and insights when creating innovation.
The discussion started with a question to Mr. Bharat Kapadia, asking for his insights on the innovation process used by the Team at Divya Bhaskar when launching their newspaper in Gujrat. Mr. Kapadia, who is a former Director at the Bhaskar Group, spoke about how their team managed to become the number 1 selling newspaper in Ahmedabad from day one and how they achieved the same result in more than a dozen cities across Gujrat and Rajasthan, an unlikely occurrence when launching news papers. It was fascinating to hear about how the Insight Teams from the News Paper met over 7,00,000 households of potential readers in Ahmedabad and co-created the news paper. And on their 3rd visit to these homes 4,00,000 households signed up for a 3 month subscription to a news paper that was still a concept. On day 1 Divya Bhaskar launched with more subscribed readers than the collective readership of the two ‘leading’ newspapers in the city. To learn more about the success of the Bhaskar Group, read the feature in ‘Making Breakthrough Innovation Happen’ by Porus Munshi, available online .
The question asked to Anshu Gupta – founder of GOONJ, a nonprofit that provides clothing for needy people, was around how he managed to tackle the mindsets of the community so that the GOONJ model could be successful. GOONJ provides year round collection, processing and distribution of clothing and what is innovative about the model is that they recognize that the need for clothing is a constant one, not just during calamities. They are leading the way for a mindset shift from “Donors Pride” to “Receivers Dignity” and strive to provide needy people with clothing that matches their needs. They also deal with traditionally taboo areas such as producing sanitary napkins for rural women and creating awareness about hygiene. Anshu shared how they have managed to build a large scale supply, processing and distribution network that allows them to work with over 70 tons of waste, discarded clothes and material each month – transforming this waste into useful products. For more on GOONJ and how you can contribute, check out their website.
Mr. Noshir Colah from Aavishkaar, a venture capital firm that funds innovators and entrepreneurs creating value for people at the Bottom of the Pyramid, was asked about funding. More specifically, he was asked why there wasn’t any funding for Indian entrepreneurs innovating for the BoP space. He described how Indian investors are wary of taking the risk and funding BOP entrepreneurs continues to be risky and that most funding available now is not Indian. he further elaborated on the fact that even Debt capital is completely missing. Aavishkaar is playing a vital role by funding social enterprises that have potential to scale. Mr. Colah highlighted the dearth of working capital funds for early stage enterprises and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the Indian ecosystem. He shared the example of Vortex Engineering’s innovative Rural Solar Powered ATM’s and how SBI funded for only 300 of these models to make it to the market, even though they approved a tender from the organization for supply of the same, demonstrating how even the best ideas find it very tough to garner working capital needed to really scale.
Professor Mohan, CEO of the IITB-Monash Research Centre was asked about the partnership role academia and industry play in developing a rich innovation ecosystem. He shared perspectives on why an Industry – Academia partnership needs to be long term and the potential benefits of such an engagement. If the number of PhDs awarded in India was used as a measure of a country’s innovation culture, China would be considered to be way ahead as the number of PhDs awarded over the past 5-7 years is far greater. He expressed the need for Indians to play a more active role in research if we are to use academia as a route to innovation. “The industry-academia connection needs to be stronger; academia needs the freedom to be innovative.” To learn more about the IITB-Monash Research Centre, visit their website.
Anusha Jayanti, a participant at the session shared her learning…”..the gaps pointed out by Anshu Gupta really got me thinking, and Divya Bhaskar’s approach of looking at (the) potential market instead of existing market was very innovative..” She shared her notes through a visual mapping of the conversations, and we are sure you will love this format too!
Innovation enthusiasts who participated in the session had provoking and fundamental questions to the panel members. Interesting insights and ideas emerged from these conversations, for example, Dr. Phadke was asked for his insight on how Innovation can be promoted within organizations when priority and focus was in completing short term objectives to which he spoke about the use of ideation campaigns within Reliance Industries Limited that compelled employees to be creative and innovative.
Another interesting question that came up was on “What was more important when attempting an Innovation – creation of the product/ service or its implementation?” Mr. Colah took up the question and answered that the implementation of an innovation is crucial in order for it to be successful. People need to accept and embrace your innovation for it to have any significant impact. Adoption of the idea is where the challenge lies and Innovating for adoption is more critical than innovating of the idea itself.
There were also a variety of questions and concerns raised about fostering an Innovation culture within an organisation, to which Prof. Mohan suggested the need for a strong mentorship network that focuses on promoting innovation when developing an Innovation Ecosystem and Dr Phadke agreed by stating “Facilitating ideas to grow, develop and stabilize encourages innovation” Mr. Anshu added how his organisations principle of guided democracy enabled Goonj to stay ahead of the curve. The panel also offered other insights from their experience on how to promote and encourage Innovation.
Also present at the session was the Team from Bain & Co., Knowledge partners for the Innovation for India Awards which have been recently launched for applications. Yaquta Mandviwala, Manager at Bain & Co., shared details of the process and eligibility criteria for the awards.
The session ended with Innovation enthusiasts and practitioners engaging further after the session over coffee. Some panelists and audience members were interviewed after the event, watch this space for videos and guest blogs form the event.
If you have innovated or know of people who are working on Innovative models, do ensure you apply for the Innovation for India Awards.