SAN FRANCISCO, January 25, 2010 - Navi Radjou is Executive Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University. His research interests include studying the rise of emerging markets like India as both a source and market for tech innovations. He led the firm's analysis of how globalized innovation is driving new collaborative market structures and organizational models like Global Innovation networks. In 2008, he published his research on Indian innovation in a 10-part report series titled India: The Innovation Giant (Re) Awakens. An expert on Indian innovation, Radjou maintains a blog titled "Made in India" on Harvard Business Online.
Radjou was at Asia Society Northern California to participate in a talk entitled "Indovations: Driving Global Innovations from Emerging Markets." In this exclusive interview with Asia Society Northern California's Neha Sakhuja, Radjou talks about the need for turbo-charging India's growth with innovations which have the potential to push India's 70 percent rural population out of poverty. He introduces us to the Indian entrepreneur who adopts the strategy of "more for less for more" in a country defined by adversity of infrastructure and capital.
Are Indian innovations relevant in other parts of the world? Is there an inherent "Indian way" of innovating? If so, what are the unique attributes of this model?
Indian innovations are relevant for rest of the world for very simple reasons. If you look at the factors that lead innovation in India—liberty, connectivity, and diversity—all are affected by frugality. Scarcity of infrastructure, capital, human resources are all driving a frugal mindset, which are leading to innovations that are inherently affordable, accessible, and sustainable by nature.
These innovations are also going to be relevant for other emerging markets like China, Brazil, and South Africa, which also face scarcity of natural resources and capital. Any innovation taking place in India in the domain of health care, education, and banking may even be relevant for mature markets like the US and Europe. Take the example of the Nano car developed by the TATA Motors group. It has been developed for $2,500 US, which seems pretty low cost, but it is also a high quality car that can find a niche in emerging markets. Interestingly, as more and more consumers are becoming environmentally conscious in Europe and America and the economic downturn is pushing for a frugal mindset, one can predict a Nano rolling down the streets of San Francisco and New York within a matter of few years.
You have authored a report titled "India: The Innovation Giant (Re) Awakens." What were your findings, and what are the origins of the report?
The report was written when I was vice president of Forester Research and it was primarily to showcase the different innovations coming out from India that are relevant not only for India but for the rest of the world. The title was supposed to be very provocative and wanted to explain to the world that India has always been an innovation giant. It is just that it fell asleep for a few centuries in the second millennium but is now coming back with full vengeance. Over the last few centuries, of course, India has become the dominant place for technological and scientific innovation. Looking ahead in the next 50 years on, you can clearly see that India is going to come back to the center stage of the world and start contributing more innovations across different industries.
Next: "In a country like India, adversity surrounds you in every part of your life."