The Great Indian Bschool Debate Semifinal 2: IIM Lucknow vs XLRI Jamshedpur

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…..


Semifinal One: IIM Lucknow vs XLRI Jamshedpur            (Check out the other semifinal happening here)

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


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Its true that the Indian IT sector has it competitive advantage because of its cost arbitrage, but recognizing this advantage and building institutions like Infosys, wipro and tcs is a definite form of innovation. The relation between innovation and economic growth is proven and its this innovation by the IT sector in general which is a major cause of india’s tremendous economic growth in the last couple of decades, whereby services now contribute to a major part of the GDP. Isn’t this innovation?
It doesn’t stop here as team IIM Lucknow rightly pointed out once the cost arbitrage stops this competitive advantage will start to erode , Indian IT sector has recognised the same and are now moving up the value chain from being IT support to application developers to being product developers. Microsoft’s development centre in Hyderabad contributes significantly to the IT innovation of the parent company. Hence Indian IT sector is an example of continuous innovation.
Secondly we don’t see large scale innovation in the high tech sectors because we still don’t have the enabling environment for such innovation compared to a country like US, just the fact that Indians have founded a lot of start ups in US stands ample testimony to this fact. Nevertheless the sectors where there have been focussed attention of the government like Nuclear and Space has seen innovations and we are in the select group of nations as far both these sectors are concerned and all this has happened post independence.
Lastly if we see the Global innovation index ,the drivers of the same which ultimately decide the rankings which are -Institutions, Human Capital & Research, Infrastructure, Market Sophistication, Business Sophistication, Knowledge and technology outputs and creative outputs- these mostly favour developed nations as they were catapulted to the higher growth path straight after the industrial revolution but india had to wait another 300 years. Secondly social innovation doesn’t find mention in this index. Innovative developmental interventions like SEWA, Kudumba shree Project in kerala, female self help groups throughout the country, milk cooperatives like AMUL or an innovation like Grameen Bank in Bangladesh are not considered for this index. Hence one shouldn’t use such an index to judge a country like India where lot of innovations keep happening in the rural side without any organizational intervention.


To add to what we have already mentioned, the issue here is whether India innovates or "does not" innovate with the key word being "does not". My esteemed friends from IIM-L have told us throughout their arguments that India needs to innovate more and we do agree that more of any good thing is great! But We could not find, despite scrutiny, an section in their argument which could prove that India "does not "innovate.
Also, I think one needs to be clear about what are the kind of Innovations that suit the needs of the economies of specific countries. My esteemed friends tried to bludgeon "jugaad" saying it isn't innovation while using the quotes of two intellectuals. Well, just browsing through the book "Jugaad Innovation" by Navi Rajdou(Executive Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.), Jaideep Prabhu(the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business and Enterprise and Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.) & Simone Ahuja (Dr. Simone Ahuja is the founder of Blood Orange Media, a marketing and strategy advisory company with digital media capabilities, as well as special expertise in innovation) would help enlighten them a little on how and why there is a need to move from Process Innovation to Frugal innovation.


The first point that we would want to focus on is the “excellence of India in frugal engineering”. Yes, we acknowledge the frugal engineering part. But we differ on the excellence part of the statement. Tata Nano did not excel as a product. Product recalls, technical issues, marketing & distribution problems were some of the issues with this. As pointed out in our argument, “Jugaad”, an example of frugal innovation in India is not really an innovation. Though no statistical data is available, it is reported that there are a number of instances of failing brakes, requiring someone to jump off and manually apply a wooden block as a brake. These vehicles do not have any vehicle registration plate as they are not registered with the Regional Transport Office (RTO). Jugaad vehicles are not officially recognized as road-worthy. An innovation that is not worthy of replication is not really an innovation. Team XLRI has also mentioned MNC’s setting up shop in India and innovating. We believe that this is a case of companies based out of USA (Microsoft IDC in Hyderabad) or Finland (Nokia 1100) innovating and not India innovating. The argument that the Indian IT industry is not innovating and is relying on cost arbitrage is made by Phaneesh Murthy, the Chief executive of iGate.
Reiterating our point about start-ups, we see that the difference is roughly a factor of 20 between India and USA. Consider the GDP’s of India and USA in PPP terms. The Indian GDP (4.4 trillion) is only lagging the USA GDP (15 trillion) by a factor of 3.5. Thus we expect a similar relation between the numbers of start-ups evolving in the two countries.
A deeper reading into the Global Innovation Index reveals that the developing economies like China (29), Brazil (47) & South Africa (59) rank higher than India. Even Ghana which is a lower income economy (India being middle income economy) ranks 70. Hence the factors involved in measurement of the GII are able to capture the high performers in the developing/under developed regions as well. It is just that India is an under performer.
As mentioned in our initial argument, we do acknowledge that there have been cases of innovation Arvind eyecare, Jaipur Foot, Amul and a few others. India has had a great history of innovation in the field of mathematics (zero, hindu Arabic system), medicine (leprosy, plastic surgery) etc. The innovations of this age are just not as radical as these.

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'Post-Independence India does not innovate.'
It is ridiculous to interpret this statement literally and assume India has had ZERO innovation! Our interpretation is that it is has had very minimal innovation.


The path of innovation is strewn with more failures than success, hence success and failure of a product cannot be used to judge innovation. The question if tata nano is a successful product or not can be kept aside for a different debate altogether but its inarguable that there was an innovative process behind the creation of Nano and it’s a fine example of India innovating.
I agree with Team IIM L in that the jugaad vehicles mentioned by them may not be a case of innovation but take the example of Mahindra “Sactor” which was born out of an idea when a Mahindra senior executive saw a normal tractor being used to transport vehicles and humans with a trolley/platform attached to it. This is a perfect example of a jugaad solution being replicated.
I agree that Indians innovating in USA may not be India innovating, but Indians in india innovating although they work for a multinational company is a case of “India Innovating” as these mnc’s believe in the potential of Indians located in India to innovate. It’s an unquestionable fact that the number of start ups in US is way ahead of India, but it would be wrong to say that India is not innovating because its lagging in this criteria. India is a developing country and its needs are different compared to US, we see social innovations happening in India we see customized innovations by businesses in India small sachets of FMCG products, e choupal etc these don’t happen in countries like US and also the global innovation index doesn’t have a driver to measure such type of innovations.
Lastly the case of Arabic numerals, zero , plastic surgery etc , these are inventions and not innovations, we do agree that inventions may have an innovative process behind it or it may just be out of pure serendipity like the Archimedes principle therefore all innovations need not be inventions. Hence we did borrow the definition of innovation by the National Knowledge commission (refer our first argument) which is a comprehensive and all encompassing view of innovation and if used as an yard stick would clearly reveal that post independence India is innovating.


Also, as an after thought, if seeing a statement like "Post independent India does not innovate", our esteemed friends at IIM L use a leap of faith to decide that it means India is not innovating as much as US based on benchmarks suitable for measuring the growth of their economy(which we disagree with as mentioned in our counter-comment), we do not think they should display such a narrow mindset as to limit innovation to product innovation or innovation in terms of say, need to create a hadron collider to study matter composition.
Every country innovates in its own way to meet its own needs and as long as a country's needs are fulfilled by the kind of innovation going on, which in case of India, with its large rural population and multiple small scale industries is more towards social innovation, flexible innovations and frugal innovation, the fire of innovation will keep burning. By this we in no way mean that the country should not spend more towards its R&D budget or work towards getting in more patents product-wise but we do mean that innovation in India is alive and kicking and "jugaad" in hindi, "gambiarra" in Brazil, "zizhu chuangxin" in China, and most likely DIY in the US are here to stay and are the call of the future.
The statement of Jayant Sinha, managing director & country head, Omidyar Network says it all "While the US will be the innovator for the top one billion (of the world's population), India will be the innovation hub for the bottom five" with the kind of investments that it is making i.e $ 200 million in both for-profit and non profit social enterprises.


India cannot be looked at softly due to colonization. A lot of countries were in poor shape post WW2 but still grew rapidly due to innovation (Japan, South Korea). India has not. So the opening remarks in the argument are invalid.

Until Mahindra “Sactor” becomes a commercially used product, it is premature to talk about it.

Even if it were commercially used, it is certainly not Jugaad! It was (or would have been) developed in a scientific way within Mahindra’s facilities.

Whatever Jugaad is called in other nations, it is still that – a hack. Once these ‘hacks’ become proven, they are considered innovations. In fact the ‘innovation hub’ article referred to is precisely about that – finding scalable opportunities! There is not even one mention of Jugaad in that article. It certainly mentions innovative business models and profit, which are hallmarks of innovation, not Jugaad.

As far as the NKC definition of innovation, on which your arguments are based, is concerned, it clearly mentions –
1.Innovation is defined as a process by which varying degrees of measurable value enhancement is planned and achieved, in any COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY. order to improve MARKET SHARE
which is precisely our position. Thanks for the reference. Jugaad fails to qualify by your own definition!
Let us not pick and choose words to suit our position!

Also, FYI, even the NKC document on "Innovation in India" on which you are basing your arguments has NO mention of Jugaad anywhere, either!


For all the ‘innovation’ India has achieved on the nuclear front, we still get only 3.7% of our power from nuclear plants. Pakistan, Argentina and other smaller nations extract more from their nuclear plants. France gets 77%. Again, an idea that has not been COMMERCIALIZED or SCALED in any meaningful way.

Our space and nuclear programs are indigenous, not NEW, a key word in your definition of innovation. We are not producing any innovative technology, just replicating what has been done in other countries due to sharing constraints.


What I don't understand with so much talk about "replication" is whether IIM L is of the belief that the product innovations that they seem only too happy to boast about of countries like US have fallen from thin air? Every innovation comes down from some amount of replication. As far as my knowledge goes, Facebook was apparently a replication of an existing Harvard student project. Apple has been growing for the past several years by making acquisitions of inventions of smaller companies, products which Apple felt would fit into their scheme of things, modified them and made them part of their newer innovations and lets not even look at Microsoft!


Request XLRI to stop rambling about Apple, Microsoft etc. and explain how India's space and nuclear contributions qualify as 'innovation' as per THEIR suggested NKC definition.


Why is it that each time we reduce IIM Ls arguments to nothing with our justifications, they come up with more questions we have already answered.. 🙂
Please check our reply to Ashish..starting with "we have had successful pslv and gslv launches at very less cost of the advanced countries and also developed space reentry technology , isn't this innovation. We have launched satellites of countries like israel because of the cost arbitrage we offer in space launches. Secondly cryogenic engine although still not fully developed is in the advanced stages of development and as we said earlier please don't confuse between innovation and invention. "


You have again not answered the question as it pertains to your NKC definition.
Team from IIML does not wish to respond further to this thread.


Cost reduction means streamlined processes means improved operational process means innovation by definition of NKC. I thought that was implied. No issues, we will spell it out from next time.. 🙂


Well, since you finally tried to be relevant.

Lesser cost compared to advanced countries is because of cheap Indian labor. As we mentioned, mere cost arbitrage cannot be termed as innovation.

Cost reduction should not be seen across countries due to labor wage differences. It is within. Has India of 2012 managed to make cheaper satellites as compared to India of say, 2007? That would result from operational, streamlined processes.


What you are attributing to cost arbitrage, we are attributing to improved/streamlined operations… I dont think this needs further explanation


Cost arbitrage between India and other advanced countries is obvious.

It behooves you to prove the fairy tale 'streamlined operations' improvement!


Unless ou can bring me valid data from the Indian space industry which clearly demonstrate that the space re entry technology is at low cost only because of low labour costs in India, I am sorry we cant accept this point.


Nice try. Since you stated first that we do space reentry cheaply, you need to provide that reference.
I find it ridiculous to have to prove labor in India is not cheaper than labor in advanced nations.


We dont see your arguments proving us wrong in any way… We are talking about three different kinds of innovations here:- Product innovation, Frugal Innovation & Social Innovation. Why our esteemed friends at IIM L are so keen to mix and mingle all of them up we cannot understand.
Lets take up Social innovation first. The article…? talks about social innovation and indias tremendous growth in that field and we have used it for the same purpose(which IIM L conveniently chose to ignore). We haven't talked about Jugaad here.
Now lets move onto Jugaad. Jugaad means an improvised solution born from ingenuity: Seek opportunity in adversity, do more with less, think and act flexibly, keep it simple, include the margin and follow your heart. To use the word "hack" for the same would be an insult to this process which stands out like a beam w.r.t future innovation. The reason we gave the various names of jugaad in the languages used in different countries is because all of these countries see value in the same. How can this process of frugal, flexible innovation be concidered negligible, just because to IIM-L it doesnt appear as bright and shiny as Facebook or Twitter? Can one deny that Dabbawalas and their extensive supply chain management process is an innovation?Should one not look at MittiCool, the low-cost, biodegradable refrigerator made out of clay as a form of innovation? These are just two sources of jugaad innovation which has been a source of economic benefit to thousands of people. One needs to get down from ones high horse and discuss brass tacks when one discusses innovation, my dear friends.
Now lets go on to comparison of India with Japan and South Korea. These countries do not have the same political trail as India, nor are their social norms or expectations from population same as India. Moreover post world war 2 these economies were completely export based while India had License Raj. So how does IIM L expect them to follow the same paths of Innovation?


This is a straw man attack. No one is arguing whether ‘Jugaad’ has value. We are arguing whether it is the same as innovation. It is not, as has been established under NKC’s definition.

Dabbawalas was started as an ORGANIZED service, with 100 men initially. Not ‘Jugaad’. Innovation (Commercial activity). Let us not usurp every idea under ‘Jugaad’!

First you ask us to follow NKC definition of innovation (which we did and proved Jugaad was not innovation), and then you ask us to get off high horses as regards innovation? What next?

India was free to pursue its own course in every arena post-independence. It cannot be helped that our own choices shackled our innovation. And 2 countries would always differ in some respect or the other. No excuse not to be compared though, else no ranking in world would be possible.


"For over a century they delivered hot lunch in packages to thousands of Bombay's working people with almost faultless efficiency without the help of information technology. But now Bombay's ubiquitous Dabbawalas lunch deliverymen have realized that they need to go high-tech after all — not only to expand their business but also for their social security." This paragraph has been picked up from the article that you just provided the link for. This clearly indicates the relationship between Dabbawalas and Jugaad. My esteemed friends, when one talks about Jugaad, one does not only talk about the unorganized manner of doing a task. God knows, where you got that idea from. In that case Tata Nano, the GE Health's MAC 800 etc would not come under Jugaad. Jugaad says that to come up with the idea of a improved process/product you do not always have to schedule meetings and assign specific tasks to specific people. It never says that when a process is being implemented, chaos has to reign.


I picked my idea of Jugaad from the T Krishnan article (in main argument) where he calls it a 'quick-fix'.
Request you to share your definition of Jugaad.


Request you to share your definition, like I did, instead of linking. I have no idea what words you choose to pick from these articles to suit your purpose.


We have alread given our definition from this article to you as a counter argument ages ago…if you do not choose to read, we cant help you there.. 🙂


We dont see your arguments proving us wrong in any way… We are talking about three different kinds of innovations here:- Product innovation, Frugal Innovation & Social Innovation. Why our esteemed friends at IIM L are so keen to mix and mingle all of them up we cannot understand.
We never called social innovation anything other than what it is, which is what…? talks about. What it also talks about is how India is using this specific technique to move ahead in this world. We never linked this article with Jugaad.
Now lets come to Jugaad which they love to belittle so much.. 🙂
Where from have they come up with this term "hack"? Jugaad means an improvised solution born from ingenuity": Seek opportunity in adversity, do more with less, think and act flexibly, keep it simple, include the margin and follow your heart. The reason why it was explained using different languages was that each of these countries sees merit in the same. Is IIM-L discrediting what has been successfully utilized in several pockets of India and the world to come up with suitable solutions and be a source of economic benefit. NKC mentions 1 and 2 above(mentioned in IIM Ls comments) as part of innovation and we do not deny that. What we do deny is IIM L's bullish attitude. One needs to come down from ones high horse and look at what works in India. Can one deny that the system used by Dabbawalas to supply tiffin to the different offices in Mumbai is an innovation? Can one say MittiCool, the low-cost, biodegradable refrigerator made out of clay is not an innovation? These are just two instances of what frugal innovations this country has witnessed and there are many many more, not "hacks" but sources of livelihood for thousands of people.
Now lets come to treating India differently from other countries because of its pre-independence struggles. Even this point has been clearly explained both in our opening arguments and counters. Is the political trail since the second world war, social needs, culture & expectations from the population same as India? Were their policies towards growth same as India? If not then why will their path of innovation be same as India? India's process of innovation will meet India's necessity. Japan's or South Korea's will meet theirs.

Kaushik Basu

There are two "Global Innovation Index" prevalent made by BCG and Insead respectively…So at the onset, I would like to ask IIML which one are they referring to? From the data IIML provided, it seems they are referring to the index made by Insead which is different from the Index provided by BCG where India ranks 44 out of 110. The huge difference(approx 41%) in ranking between these giant institutions show that the magnitude of innovations cannot be measured accurately and it depends on the parameters one considers for measurement…So, using any random index by making a google search doesn't prove/disprove anything about any topic.

Sachin Gupta

One has to admit that in India we haven't seen any company even remotely close to the Googles,Facebooks or Twitters of the world. Most of the work in India is an imitation of something existing already abroad and localized to suit our tastes. I'm not sure that can be termed as innovation. Even a which has gained cult status in India is nothing but a copy of amazon and other such sites. In fact the founders were ex-amazon employees!


Question to you Sachin would be: Does innovation come out of thin air? Isnt some amount of replication from previous inventions part of most innovations? If so, why should Flipcart not be considered an innovation. And even going by IIM Ls standards, Flipcart is economically extremely viable and has increased the organizations market share. So it should definitely be counted as an innovation… 🙂


We highlighted viability in the definition as you chose to ignore it while talking of Jugaad.
Now we highlight NEW as you choose to ignore that.
So, by our standards, or ANYONE's standards, Flipkart is not innovation.


Explain how Flipkart improved anything Amazon did. And don't again say low cost! Labor is cheaper in India compared to US.


We stick to the definition that we provided…We did not see any relevance in trying to pursue a point already exhaustively discussed, any further

Kaushik Basu

I don't want to talk about Deep Kalra's "Make My Trip" or Rakesh Shah's "Edelweiss" or Sanjeev Bikhchandani's "" etc to demonstrate innovation in India post Independence…A copy of Rashmi Bansal's "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish" can demonstrate many more…
But lets think about India, the country where majority of people face so many constraints in earning it's livelihood…Innovation is not only about Googles and Facebooks and Twitters…It's also about the tree climbing apparatus made by poor people in Kerala to climb trees or the washing machine which runs without power made by a college student to save her dad's electricity bills or an amphibious bicycle made to cross a river…These are few of the numerous examples of innovations that people in India have made just for sustenance. Unfortunately these remain unnoticed by big consulting firms when they make their "Innovation Index"


@Sachin – Firstly we believe your view on innovation is very myopic , innovation not only happens in technology oriented fields. It can be social, in business say marketing ,supply chain or improving a process etc. Many innovations happening in India also doesn’t happen in US like say like E choupal, rural cooperatives, customized FMCG products therefore can we draw a conclusion that US is not innovative , certainly not. If do indepth we think every country has some fundamental strengths which enable them to innovate in certain areas , in technology enabled industries India is catching up and further there is no enabling environment like that in the US , but see the wonders we have done in space technology at very less the cost of advanced nations when there was focussed attention on that sector by the government.


I dont agree with Team XLRI arguments which they use to defend India as a place where innovations are happening.

Lets take the example of space technology which they have used. Cryogenic engine which is the heart of any rocket is imported from Russia. Why? Because the one which ISRO had been trying for over 17 years to develop failed. Similar fate awaits several defence projects (Kaveri engine, Arjun Tanks etc).

I think when we are saying that a country of the size of India does not innovate, wouldn't it be a rather frivolous way of just citing a few examples to buttress our point. Citing such examples does not lead us very far because that immediately draw comparisons with other countries like China or even smaller ones such as Israel and Japan which at our independence were similar to us but are now miles ahead. Comparisons will be drawn in not just space and defence but in whole lot of industrial technologies. Why cant we make aeroplanes when Brazil and China are able to, why cant we even make good locomotives ourselves (our railway engines are built under transfer ot technology agreement with EMD USA). Examples of countries around has shown that a significant amount of innovation (that matters) happens in industry labs and educational institutions which is simply not happening in India. India is way behind China and other countries in the nuber of research papers published. Shouldn't that be used as more reliable indicator of whether innovation is happening in India than simply quoting words from few corporates.

And that leads me to my thoughts on frugal innovation. By the peans sung about our frugal innovation, our villages should have been teeming with innovative products. But I dont see that happening. If we are so good at frugal innovation, why is rural India so far below in almost all social indicators. Shouldn't the purpose of frugal inovation be betterment of "the bottom 1 billion". And the reason for this is that while we might be good at Jugaad, the frugal innovation part is simply missing because of lack of institutional setup and because to put it politely Jugaad is not frugal innovation.

I think it is important that when one tries to describe whether a country innovates or not, one should understand what innovation means. Team XLRI have done a good job of presenting that definition. Only if they were as good as backing that up with better examples.

PS: Team XLRI defines innovation as "implementing new or improved organizational/ managerial processes". Please name one management guru or management thought that originated in India but was adopted worldwide. The only famous Indian management guru that I can think of is Tarun Khanna but even he is at Harvard. I dont know of any operational innovation originating in India. Most of our manufacturing companies (and even our operations books) only cite Japanes operational efficiency and quality techniques.


India doesn't have a cryogenic engine till now but don't you agree that we have had successful pslv and gslv launches at very less cost of the advanced countries and also developed space reentry technology , isn't this innovation. We have launched satellites of countries like israel because of the cost arbitrage we offer in space launches. Secondly cryogenic engine although still not fully developed is in the advanced stages of development and as we said earlier please don't confuse between innovation and invention.

Our rural areas are indeed teeming with innovative products from chota kool fridges, to peeper threshers , to bicycle weeder , to hand operated pump etc but the reason why rural areas are low on social development is because lack of education, booming population, failure of agricultue etc , innovation doesn't solves systemic problems it only aids economic growth.

Innovation need not be adopted by the entire world to be recognized as innovation, the american way of innovation doesn't solve our problems of poverty eradication, social inclusion etc but something like SEWA or AMUL or microfinance can. Are these not organizational/managerial processes or are we blinded by western management education so that we consider only something like the porter's five forces as an innovative thought.


Please remember Ashish, that the point of contention is not whether India can match US in product innovation… That is a whole different ballgame. Neither is the question here about how India fares with developed countries on International Innovation metrics. The point here is that India has been innovating in the last 60 years, in its own ways and to satisfy its own needs. And it is carrying on the torch of innovation to the future and according to many renowned authors, is involved in such innovation which has high relevance in todays rapidly changing world…


I agree with Team XLRI's argument.. Post-independence India has been a hotbed of innovation.. as they have mentioned, innovation also means new or imrpoved processes/services.. A case in point is Mumbai's Dabbawallas – a service that has been lauded by the Harvard Business School and has become a case study there.. Innovation doesn't need to be global.. an innovation as small as the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and the recently opened Delhi-Agra expressway are examples of this.. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, built indigenously by the Maharashtra Government, within the stipulated budget and time is a stupendous example of Indian innovation.
The low-cost service model, championed by bellwether IT companies such as Infosys and TCS is another success story in the Indian innovation space. The Indian talent is not known for nothing.. Lot of Indians around the world are involved in cutting-edge research.. Many of them have been successful entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley and have returned to India, attracted by the abundant opportunities here


I think the cost arbitrage that we offer is due to cheaper manpower rather than product or process innovation per se. As far as your examples of SEWA and AMUL are concerned, AMUL copperative model was stareted much before in Australia in 1900 ( and microfinance and women self help groups is not a truly an innovative concept simply because Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and other NGOs in developing nations such as had already been practising it.


But doesn't AMUL completely justify the benchmark IIM L has set for Innovation? It tremendously increased GCMMFs market share in dairy and it brought the company tremendous profits which was distributed to the producers at the grass root level. And this model was modified to suit the Indian necessity, which according to us is part of the concept of innovation… 🙂 Again I repeat… Innovation of an kind will involve replication of some known or unknown model…


But surely how can copying a technique or a business model practised somewhere else called innovation? You did not highlight how this "model was modified to suit the Indian necessity" by Amul either? Your statement "Innovation of an kind will involve replication of some known or unknown model…" seems (pardo the term) baloney to me.
As team IIM L says there have certainly been some examples of innovation but then which country has not done any innovation but some isolated examples do not give the overall picture of where country stands with respect to innovation. India wins 4 medals in olympics wheras others win in dozens. Ofcourse we play sports but do you think we are a sporting powerhouse? That is why I mentioned that if you are really interested in understanding whether India does innovation, you have to look at the scale and size of these innovations, see where they stand with in comparison to what other countries are achieveing etc. That is why the innovation indices are a useful measure. Because afterall if I am able to somehow repair a leaking pipe with a chewing gum, does it really count as innovation?


Ashish …was the topic-> Is India the innovation powerhouse of the world? If that was the topic of discussion we would be having a separate discussion… When you put in your implicit assumption on what we are arguing about, the pardon my saying so but you make a mockery of the debate that we are having… There are different kinds of innovations which different countries carry out which are suitable to the economic model that they follow. What to you might seem like the right and proper kind of innovation, may not be the one suited to the economic growth of a particular country. Now, lets ask you what you think of Facebook. Is that an innovation? But then wasnt the idea of facebook born from a existing Harvard student project? In that case would you reject it as an innovation (as baloney)?


Then why are we having this debate if you want a literal interpretation of the topic? The day India made first innovation post 15 Aug, this topic "Post-Independence India does not innovate" should not arise. Of course we do innovate. A bit rare than the others. A bit more seldom than the others. A bit less valuable than the others. But we do it.I never really tried t straitjacket definition of innovation. I understand that it happens in several areas. I just hope that you do not do it either.

And yes although the debate is not about facebook but since you ask it, of course it is an innovation because the platform is so different, the presentation is so different from other social networking sites.It makes me a bit frustrated when you confuse what innovation is. Iphone is widely regard as innovation because of its design. Just because Abraham Bell invented telephone, why should I not call iphone an innovation. But does it resemble it in any way? No. Does it bring a significant change to the old concept? Definitely.

Bhargav Phukan

Right, first of all I am surprised the discussion has gone to cryogenic engines….when you have a BrahMos missile to think about ( yes, booster capabilities are Indian inputs too). Going onto the second part. Take automobile engineering, apart from the refuted jugaad thing, we have given the world a Nano? yes, that should pretty much cover the tech part.
Also, I am surprised how innovation here seems to be only focused around tech. I mean does not cultural innovation & social innovations not count too? Where else would you go looking for a society that has such deep familial ties with such an emerging open outlook. Pretty much all innovation index are wired that way. But if we really take a look around us, we have to admit, from the minuscule water saving techniques used in Andhra and Rajasthan to developing new rickshaw designs, India is a pretty innovative place.

Dibya Jyoti Das

I agree with Team XLRI, when some people in the forum talk about India not being innovative, they are seeing only one side of the picture. And it is not their fault for this short-sightedness. They are exposed only to the Facebooks and twitters of today. They are not aware of the rural innovations that have happened over the years in India. India with all its challenges in infrastructural and financial support has come up with innovations which are low cost, low-resource focused but utilitarian. To quote a few -the micro hydel projects (Many would have seen the movie "Swades", Yes, it is a real life story of the remote village of Bilgaon), the low-cost sanitary napkin maker (huge employment potential and huge utilitarian need, acclaimed internationally), Bio-diesel, etc. The rural-centric innovations are the ones that go unnoticed because we in the cities turn a blind eye towards them. But being a country with such huge potential at the bottom of the pyramid, this is where the fortune is. If we want to talk about innovations at the corporate India level, we have Mahindra's tractors. The tractors from foreign players which came to the Indian market were not suitable for Indian farmers, Mahindra innovated to suit India. Mahindra's Xylo, the SUV manufactured at a cost so low that it caught most global SUV manufacturer's attention. The Tata Nano is a globally acclaimed innovation. Even Americans are concerned about fuel efficiency now (Toyota’s gain over GM). The story of Nirma which caught the attention of the global leader Unilever, and there are many such examples. These are the innovations which have come from people like you and me who are resource crunched and without any institutionalized support mechanism. They have innovated by tackling all these obstacles. Belittling India as an Innovator by citing a developed country's Space program or Cryogenic program is utter disrespect to our fellow Indian innovators and ignorance on our part.

Kaushik Basu

I don't agree with IIML's dismissal of our esteemed IT companies as "Service Sweatshops"…What started as a cost arbitrage model is slowly moving up the value chain…With increased competition, IT companies need to be innovative in its business model, project management and solutions just for survival…And these innovations and knowledge brings bulk of our IT business…Had cost arbitrage been the only objective then "captives" of the client organizations would have replaced our IT companies by now….But most of the client organizations are sticking to the IT organizations because cost is not their only consideration…Innovation, knowledge and guidance is.

Dibya Jyoti Das

I agree with Kaushik on this, I myself have worked for a captive of an American investment bank and the bank trusts the so called "service sweatshops" more than its own captive when it comes to critical projects. No doubt the Indian IT companies started to leverage on the cost factor, but with time its not just cost any more but quality and innovation in enterprise products and processes that ensure quality deliverables for their clients.


It doesn’t stop here as team IIM Lucknow rightly pointed out once the cost arbitrage stops this competitive advantage will start to erode , Indian IT sector has recognised the same and are now moving up the value chain from being IT support to application developers to being product developers.

Sandeep Adhikary

IIM L needs to broaden their perspective and look at the multiple facets of innovation… Lets not discard indias innovative capabilities just because the dont compare favourably to US's on the parameters they have set.

Shesadri Biswas

I completely agree with Sandeep's point of view and what XLRI have mentioned in their counter argument. Innovation has to be based on a countrys economic needs and social expectations. Hence Frugal innovation and social innovation that Inida is involved in makes a lot of sense in Indias environment as well as current globally changing environment.


A lot has been said about Dabbawallah's as part of Innovation. Its was "The Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. This service was originated in 1880. In 1890, started a lunch delivery service with about 100 men.In 1930, he informally attempted to unionize the dabbawallas. Later a charitable trust was registered in 1956 under the name of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust" So it was merely an extension of the services provided before independence. Please note that.


IIML point stands that post Independence India doesn't innovate much be it DRDO, HAL,NPL or even private R&D centers in India. Moreover We have to look into the Quality & quantity of innovations. By Both standards, India is way behind others. 2nd largest populated country & not in top 40's. … Yes we can count on social initiatives as innovation if it can be applied to other parts of country. Can we apply it?? If not we should call it thn Jugaad only & Jugaad is by no means Innovation.


While going through all the quotes & statements, I just remembered something that I have read during my childhood days……….I would like to share with you…………
“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?
Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

While weighing about innovation & innovative India, shouldn't we apply something similar to this test. I thing we will get our answer of real progress interns of Innovation.

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IIM L needs to broaden their perspective and look at the multiple facets of innovation… Lets not discard indias innovative capabilities just because the dont compare favourably to US's on the parameters they have set.

Marine Electronic

A lot has been said about Dabbawallah's as part of Innovation. Its was "The Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. This service was originated in 1880. In 1890, started a lunch delivery service with about 100 men.In 1930, he informally attempted to unionize the dabbawallas.


A lot has been said about Dabbawallah’s as part of Innovation. Its was “The Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. This service was originated in 1880. In 1890, started a lunch delivery service with about 100 men.In 1930, he informally attempted to unionize the dabbawallas.