Exploit that idea!

Dr. R A MashelkarThe second Marico Innovation Practitioner Session was held at the NCL Venture Centre in Pune on July 27th, 2011.

The session consisted of an exceptional panel including Marico Innovation Foundation Chairman, Dr R A Mashelkar; Mr Narendra Bhinge, Proprietor, Bhinge Brothers and winner of the 2008 Innovation for India Award; Mr Dilip Ittyera Founder and CEO of Aikon Labs; Mr Partho Guha, Founder and Principal Designer, Elephant Design and Dr S Shivaram, CSIR Bhatnagar Fellow and founder, NCL. The discussion was moderated by Parvathi Menon, CEO, Innovation Alchemy.

Dr. Mashelkar while sharing his views on Innovation in India, said that there was need for a rich Innovation Ecosystem to be crafted in the country.  Defining Innovation as the successful exploitation of a new idea, Dr. Mashelkar added that speed, scale and sustainability in implementation were essential for any new idea to be considered to be an innovation success.  In India, while many new ideas are generated, the move from mind to marketplace has not been prolific. Indicating that this was due to the lack of a rich, inclusive Innovation Ecosystem, Dr. Mashelkar highlighted the need to develop technology, talent and tolerance that could help cultivate the success of innovative ideas. Reading an excerpt from his latest book, Reinventing India, Dr. Mashelkar described the journey of Indian Innovation as a mixture of pleasure and pain – but a journey that needed to be undertaken with earnestness if India really wanted to grow. The Marico Innovation Foundation’s purpose is to do just that – fuel innovation in India.

Mr  Bhinge, winner of the 2008 Innovation for India Award, elaborated further on the challenges and opportunities as an innovator and entrepreneur. Narendra BhingeHe built the foot operated Ecoflo Treadle pump revolutionizing farming and irrigation, making it cheaper and more energy efficient to pump water in fields. Mr Bhinge elaborated on the struggle he faced in getting the product into the market and making it affordable for the farmers to buy. The Government is now a large buyer subsidizing the cost of the product for the farmers. Now, as he builds more products, the Nasik Engineering Cluster – a Government initiative to help centralize the engineering and design of prototypes for entrepreneurs, has been a big support. Mr. Bhinge highlighted how he combined the opportunities and the tough challenges – to finally make his product into an effective, award winning enterprise.

Dr Shivaram took the discussion on the Cluster Programme of the Indian Government further, responding to the question: how to transition research and development capacity from academia into industry. Highlighting the good effort in that direction, he elaborated on the clusters and R&D cells within those clusters. These are helping connect research to Entrepreneurial output in a way that it is easily accessible for use by EntrepreneursHowever, he further explained, Indian culture continues to be a setback for innovation and a conscious effort is needed to build perseverance and diversity within industry. “Ideas are like thunderbolts” described Dr. Shivaram “it can take long to see them clearly”.

But inspired Entrepreneurs (the power source behind innovation! 🙂 ) have a way of being able to see the thunderbolt clearly. Mr Ittyera shared the inflection points in his personal journey from a corporate environment to becoming an entrepreneur. The close minded nature of corporations was a huge trigger and soon he saw an opportunity to build further on his corporate role in triggering ideas. He moved out to set up Aikon Labs, a startup that applies web 2.0 and Social Networking to build an application for tapping ideas within stakeholders of an innovation ecosystem. Mr. Ittyera stressed on the importance and difficulty in having an open mind when trying something new and innovative. Corporate structures do not always prioritize open mindedness. However, early adopters of ideas are an important facet of innovation and his employer eventually became his first customer – creating a win-win for both.

Mr Partho Guha elaborated on the role of design in Innovation. Through Elephant Design his team focuses on user centric innovation. He stressed on the fact that design needed to be given priority, especially when considering the user of an innovation or product. Design allows an innovation to be user friendly and it is crucial to be sensitive to the user of a product when implementing an innovation.

One of the participants asked about the role media can and should play in developing an innovation ecosystem. “We need good news newspapers” said Dr. Mashelkar in his trademark simple approach. We need good new newspapers that celebrate our triumphs in science, innovation, development and industry. The mass media can play a key role in establishing and supporting an innovation ecosystem by popularizing and propagating innovation implementation and people who are learning by doing, trying, failing and succeeding.

An audience member pointed out that when Indian products compete for the same market space as MNC products, government policies and structure work as barriers and not enablers and therefore there was a need for the government to promote Indian Innovations rather than hampering them. Dr Shivaram while responding to this said  that government interventions may be well intentioned but were not always the most efficient and successful way forward when innovating. Biases exist but the way to correct these biases is by exhibiting excellence in product development. Dr Shivram added that finding gaps in service were an area where MNC products will allow Indian products to gain a disruptive foothold. The innovation should speak for itself and earn its rapport in the international market and only then can it be considered a success.

Closing with the call for action – “It is time the ‘I’ in India stood for Innovation!” exclaimed Dr Mashelkar.

There were over 80 innovators, entrepreneurs, academicians and business representatives present at the session. You can watch videos of this session, interviews with thought leaders and excerpts of Practitioner Sessions in other cities on the Vimeo Channel: Innovation for India

If you are an innovator, entrepreneur, business leader and have created a breakthrough in your space – Apply to the Innovation for India Awards 2012. Applications are open only till 2nd Sepetmber 2011.

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