It's crunch time in the Great Indian B school Debate. After five bruising battles among India's elite B schools, the contestants have been whittled down to four- IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, IIM Lucknow and XLRI Jamshedpur. The semifinals are going to be a live debate.
Once the opening arguments are uploaded, both teams will have an eight hour window from 18:00:00 hrs IST to 02:00:00 hrs IST to attack each other's arguments and defend their own, using the comments section of this post.. Comments will be considered valid only if they are made through the formal twitter account created specially for this debate. The audience is also encouraged to participate. Frivolous audience comments will be deleted immediately. Here we go.....
Post-Independence India does not innovate
FOR the motion - IIM Lucknow
Post-Independence India does not innovate (FOR)
A quick look at India’s inventions and discoveries will fill you with pride. ↗And then shame. For most of India’s seminal contributions to the world have happened in far earlier times. Few, if any, have happened in a post-independent India. It is as if, as a nation we have collectively clamped down the right side of our brains in the recent years. India ranks a lowly 62 out of 125 economies in the Global Innovation Index.
‘But India leads in the IT space!’ you protest? It does not require much digging to realize that our crown jewels – Infosys, Wipro, HCL and the like operate on a cost arbitrage principle. Cheap, English speaking labour – that is what we are. We are a land of service sweatshops. And once this flimsy advantage disappears, so does our ‘leadership’ position. In fact, Philippines has already overtaken us in call centres. ↗
If you are now about to furiously defend India with ‘Hotmail’, bear in mind that it was co-founded by two people, one of them an American, in that true hub of innovation, Silicon Valley. To call ‘Hotmail’ an Indian innovation would be to call ‘Google’ a Russian one. It is crucial to understand the difference between India and Indian. Indians have been innovating recently, alright, just not in India. In fact, almost half the start-ups in the US were founded by immigrants, most of them being Indians.↗ 50,000 start-ups launch every year in the US. India has a measly 2400 in toto. Even given the difference in the size of the two economies, this gap tells its own story ↗
A lot of noise is made in India about ‘Jugaad’. Let us be clear on the difference between ‘Jugaad’ and innovation. ‘Jugaad’ is a quick fix solution to a problem, a hack. It solves a very local problem in a very specific setting. Hence, it is not repeatable in any meaningful, scalable fashion (why has no company commercialized lassi making washing machines?). Innovation, on the other hand, as T Krishnan (an academician who has worked with the Indian Government, CII and Nasscom on a number of projects related to innovation) opines, ‘is more complex and involves optimisation’. In fact, he even feels that ‘Jugaad’ could hinder the progress of innovation. ↗ Our Finance Minister goes even further when he says ‘Jugaad’ is a corrupt way of looking at innovation. ↗
One does acknowledge exemplary innovations such as Aravind Eyecare, Jaipur Foot and a few others. However, like lonely stars in the night, they only highlight how dark the sky actually is. For its size, India does not innovate enough. Our brilliant forefathers would have demanded more.
- Venkatesh SR and R Maheshwaran (IIM Lucknow)
AGAINST the Motion: XLRI Jamshedpur
‘Innovation is defined as a process by which varying degrees of measurable value enhancement is planned and achieved, in any commercial activity. This process may be breakthrough or incremental, and it may occur systematically in a company or sporadically; it may be achieved by:
- introducing new or improved goods or services and/or
- implementing new or improved operational processes and/or
- implementing new or improved organizational/ managerial processes1
India had been under colonial occupation for more than 300 years till we gained independence in 1947, in these 300 odd years we had been predominately a market for the cheap products produced in countries which benefitted from the industrial revolution. The indigenous capabilities we had as a nation were systemically eroded under British rule and they left India as an impoverished nation with its economy in shackles and a booming population. It’s in this background that we need to see the various innovations that have happened in the country post independence. The first sector that comes to our mind is the technology intensive sectors namely space technology and nuclear. India is among the elite comity of nations to have developed space re-entry technology, to have landed a rover on moon and all of these have happened post independence. We have developed nuclear technology indigenously and fast breeder reactor technology a major technological innovation is in the advanced stages of development. High end technology and R&D are only two facets of innovation and as the definition stated above indicates Innovation is more comprehensive encompassing products, services, processes and economic value enhancement. Hence in order to see if India as a nation innovates we need to look beyond the high technology and R&D.
Let’s start with social innovation defined as ‘innovative solutions to immediate social problems that mobilise ideas, capacities, resources, and social arrangements required for sustainable social transformations’2. The Self employed women’s association movement and the case of Arvind Eye Hospital are two examples of pioneering social innovations in India. Businesses in India have continuously innovated starting with Unilever coming out with small sachets of shampoos and detergents to ITC leading the supply chain innovation with E - choupal which has been globally recognized as an intersection of social and business innovation.
Frugal Innovation is another area where India excels, companies and citizens all over the country have come out with innovative products and services that minimises costs and creates frugal solutions. Some examples are chotukool fridge, Jaipur leg, Nokia 1100, Dabbawalla,Tata Nano the list goes on with plethora of innovations happening all over rural India. Mahindra developed its Sactor product based on the widely prevalent rural innovative practice of modifying a tractor to transport goods and humans.
We would like to conclude by stating that post independence INDIA has been remarkably innovative and the term “Jugaad” which has been identified across India's economy in the inventiveness of call-centre workers, the creativity of global transnational elites and in the innovativeness of Indian product designs stands as ample testimony to the fact.
- Bimal Viswam & Madhumita Bhattacharya (XLRI Jamshedpur)
References (XLRI Jamshedpur)
2. Exploring the evolution of a social innovation: A case study from India , PUNITA BHATT DATTA HLTM Department, Oxford Brookes University Business School