India’s Innovation Injunction

Any study of natural process acknowledges that genes, atoms, talent have random distribution around a huge space like our planet Earth. This inherently implies that any geography will have more or less same number of artist, doctors and lawyers. It would be funny to imagine Australia as a place where only sportsmen are born and Germany a place where only Mechanical engineers are born.  Following that logic innovators are present everywhere in the world including India. With huge population size we must rank in top 5 in terms of innovations. But what saddens me is the recent global competitiveness report which ranks India as number 48 in terms of innovation below all the BRICS countries inspite of registering a double digit growth rate.

With so much of optimism in the air and prediction about beginning of India’s growth decade, this weakness can long harm us in the way of becoming a global superpower. It got me thinking what can be possible reasons for India not being able to produce innovations. Our ancient methods are globally accepted to be innovative, scientific and useful. Somewhere under British rule and struggle to re-established idea of India we seem to have lost this much important capability.

One movie “Ek Doctor ki Maut” starring Pankaj Kapur captures artfully how India treats its innovators. The movie captures a doctor’s struggle for recognition in our country which finally gets satisfied by Americans. Released in 1990s movie may be anachronistic now but even after advent of liberalization one basic hindrance for innovation is our lack of structure or as I put it abundance of structure to protect innovation. This problem is the most prominent one. But it makes me wonder if Galileo can innovate or ideate in presence of such restrictive environment why aren’t Indian innovators capable of doing so. If we look at European medieval age there were many such innovation or ideas which went against the tide and discovered a new ocean of knowledge. Innovation I believe works this way only because by its very nature it is questioning the facts and advocating change in the current system which naturally will get resisted.

I will apply my Organizational behavioral learning to understand India’s innovation injunction. Any successful organization brags about its D.N.A which makes it best at what it does. Innovation is also a culture which has to be ingrained in Indian citizens to get fruitful results. Unlike western countries our schooling systems rarely allows students to experiment. Whether it is with an innovative lunch-box or an opinion about Indian histories. It does not teaches us that it is ok to fail. It fails to advocate that process matter more than the results. Coming to college and job there are performance metrics formally decided by society which basically tests how complacent you can be. In addition to this the famous neighbor’s opinion syndrome and family’s reputation in the community kills any idea which is still left in the bag. To change this it requires conscious efforts from all the stake-holders government in terms of monetary encouragement and infrastructure help they can provide, teachers in instilling a culture of thinking differently, students in barring risk of going against the wave and finally family who should learn to accept the individuality of Indian child.

In India one innovates only when it is necessary or when it is profitable. Together we have to instill a culture where people innovate because it is fun to do so. Who knows a wheel invented today might contribute in building tomorrow’s car.


Sahil Shah

PGP-1 student of IIM Indore