When Will Indian Innovation Come Of Age?

The Forbes list of the Worlds Ten Most Innovative Companies has some surprises. There are four Asian companies -1 from China, one from South Korea and two from India. The most obvious names like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter were missing.

The number one company is Salesforce.com, largely unheard of in India. It has taken customer relationship management to another orbit with its cloud-based, digital savvy lightening platform. This helps clients wire up their sales force with their customers in one continuous infinite loop, building a long-term relationship. India’s IT heavyweights could learn a trick or two from it. The market cap of salesforce.com per employee is $2 mill, while India’s largest IT company brings in less than a tenth of it, per employee. Not surprisingly, with the burgeoning artificial intelligence tools and big data analytics, the labour arbitrage- oriented IT model of India is floundering. At number 2 is Tesla, a company that is eagerly watched by people the world over. When the automotive world was going hybrid, Tesla bets heavily on electric- designing cars that people would desire and could afford. In less than 15 years, it has overtaken the market cap of the Big Two- Ford and GM. The world watches eagerly at the innovations in solar through innovative ‘daytime warehousing’ for ‘night time use’. Tesla wants to solve the world’s energy problems within a lifetime.

Amazon at number 3 is no surprise. Amazon Prime and your very personal digital Jeeves- Alexa- are two secular innovations in a heavily polarised world.

A company that solved the need for a lower-rinse washing powder in a water scarce country that provided us with an intelligent deodorant that activates itself on contact with sweat that solved the need for an ice cream that will melt slowly and has lower calories, Hindustan Unilever is at No. 7.

What do you call a company whose mantra is to reinvent itself constantly, to reimagine its business model and its customers? Asian Paints, from a paints company to a coating giant, from a product company to a service and solutions provider, from a brick-and-mortar behemoth to a nimble click-and-order firm, Asian Paints has made the shift with aplomb.

The top 10 innovative companies are both old and new. Almost all of them are relatively large companies. Why has the size and space not cramped their appetite for disruptive innovation?

Much of this innovation DNA trickles top down, take Amazon. It has a simple process – all business leaders submit a one-page memo every month on one innovation they would like to pursue, with two key ingredients: an answer to the question “Does the innovation offer what customers want and will it give to them fast enough when they need it?” and a list of likely FAQS from the consumers that helps imagine what their experience could be like when they come in contact with it. The best ones are selected, and experimental funds are released.

India’s presence in the list is inspiring at a time when at least three Indian industries are facing a threat: the entertainment industry from video streaming: the IT industry from the blast of robotics, artificial intelligence and big data analytics; and the pharmaceutical industry from the twin problems of consolidation and shrinking health budgets.

In the pharma and tech industries, most leaders in CXO roles believe they are innovative. There is widespread confidence, perhaps even arrogance that since the two industries combined have created the value of over $250 billion in less than three decades; they must be high on innovation.

Some are now beginning to realise that there is a fundamental difference between being innovative and being an innovator. When an Italian racing car company takes Indian motor repair men from Dharavi to see how ‘battle weary hands, rolling in sweat, with minimalist tools’ fare in ‘time-crunched situations’ that company is being innovative in testing a frugal approach to troubleshooting. But when a tech company tests a computer on wheels to offer newer ways to travel, it is disrupting an entire industry. That is being an innovator. An innovator creates intellectual property for a need no one knows exists.

Indian industry, to graduate to being an innovator, requires some non-negotiables:

Sequester innovation teams. Create focus. The payoff from the focus is far, far greater than the savings from frugality and fungibility. Bring best in class talent and align incentives to optimise ‘kill fast, kill cheap’ enterprise outcomes. Ensure diversity in talent, without compromising merit, fight biases.

This article originally appeared in Business Standard.

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Innoventia – Search For Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare

Keeping up with Cipla’s innovation-driven credo, happy to share one of our big initiatives towards the same. Check out Innoventia.Cipla.Com to participate & reinvent the way we deliver healthcare.

I take this opportunity to also write my thoughts on why an initiative like Innoventia is much needed in our times.

They say when data is tortured enough, it will confess to anything! This couldn’t ring truer than now- when ‘sharing’ has become a way of life, thanks to the digital takeover of our lives. Everything is under the impact of the fastest moving phenomenon in recent times: CHANGE. In fact, change is the new technology, permeating everything, especially healthcare.


We are already witnessing applications for blockchain and more uses for AI, especially in diagnosis. Analytics has become the new buzzword. In the broad sweep of AI’s current worldly ambitions, machine learning healthcare applications seem to top the list for funding. Clearly, healthcare is no longer about the passive delivery of diagnostics, drugs and infrastructure. Guess why?

Along with the diseases, patients are changing too – across the spectrum of understanding, knowledge, and management of diseases given the emerging technology canvas.

So what’s next? Innovation is the only answer – to tide this wave of life-altering times to transform the delivery of care.

Therefore, is it healthcare or tech care? A question that will perhaps be answered through the lens of innovation.

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#WorldBookDay: Books That Have Influenced My Life

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Meet Challenges Head On – Dr Ranjana Pathak To Women Leaders In The Making

My journey has been a roller coaster ride, filled with laughter and some tears. The challenges were numerous, since I started at the very bottom, this forces you to learn, understand the nuances of the job, the expectations of the organisation, and the regulators.

This job soon became a career and now a calling. I have always been driven, spent hours reading trade journals, studying books on key topics such as chromatography, the USP etc. By the way, the USP is a great book to learn from if you are in the lab. When I started my career, I was the only girl in the QC lab, it was daunting because I had zero experience, this was a challenge to overcome. For me it was a new country, working for the first time in my life, so I suppose the survival instinct kicked in. I have always been very focused. I have the drive to be the best in what I do. These two traits have enabled me to be a perennial student, keeping me in the learning mode. I never liked the status quo and always opted for harder tasks, taught courses because it would force me to learn and be challenged by pharma executives. The need to excel has been with me literally all my life which drives me to take challenges head-on.

In summary, it is my purpose, drive, doggedness, persistence and courage that have enabled me to overcome the numerous challenges that faced me and I know I am not alone! I have also been blessed with having a very supportive family, bosses and colleagues.

Challenges for women leaders

Time is the biggest challenge, the pharma industry is competitive and by nature, timeline bound. There is seldom tomorrow, everything seems to be needed yesterday, a very fast paced, exacting and demanding industry, full of challenges, some anticipated and others binding. For women, to play their classical roles in society and families becomes difficult, because of their innate nature.
Women from time immemorial have been jugglers, they must juggle the needs of their families, children, work, friends, communities etc…the list goes on and on.
Given that the number of hours is limited for all, women need to be able to prioritise the ‘must dos’, and let go of those tasks that cannot be done and will not matter in the long run, ‘take help’ from family members, friends, neighbours to be able to juggle everything on their plate.

Creating a conducive growth environment

The government can and should execute laws that are conducive for women to work, the organisations then must follow through to make the workplace environment safe. School and universities should promote science and maths so children join science rather than hanker for business degrees alone, don’t get me wrong we need those as well but I think I see a tip towards business. If there is no product, there will be no business to manage. Today’s generation wants instant gratification, the millennials are different from the baby boomer generation, their needs and tolerances are not the same. Careers in disciplines other science seem to be more popular. The pharma industry needs sharp scientists, engineers, biologists, microbiologists, physicists, computer science etc. to ensure that new drugs/devices are developed, existing drugs are made more affordable, the quality is uncompromised. This is a daunting task where the government can help in ensuring the platforms exist. The government can do a lot to make this feasible for women/ girls in urban and rural schools.

Need for regular campus placement

There are more number of science graduates coming out of universities who want to join the pharma sector. However, due to lack of job opportunities, they have to change their career goal. To address this, the pharma industry needs to be present on the campus to educate the graduates of tomorrow about the needs of humanity (need for medicines) and the need of society.

Success Mantra

To my newcomers and those that are stalwarts: Always do the right thing, be courageous, know your subject, believe in yourself, look at yourself in the mirror each morning and say—Wow, I am looking at a great piece of art that is going to make a huge difference today!!! If I can do it…You can do it better!!

This article originally appeared in Express Pharma.

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Books: A Cerebral Affair

“A Reader lives a thousand lives before dying. Those who never read live only once!”

All of us enter youth and the corporate world with the quiet confidence that we can change the world. Alas, this lasts only “until the coarse necessities of physical existence drag us from the height of thought into the mart of economic strife and gain”. Our everyday challenges – finding and then doing well in a good job, keeping up with an often fragile relationship, the heavy load of expectations from our parents and ourselves, lack of clarity on what we really want to do in life, the rat race and constant comparison with our peers – often pull us down into mediocrity. And the grand idea of being the very best we can gets quietly put aside.

So Why Read Books?

If we agree that good counsel can help us become much better, what better guide than books? Mentors and teachers can come and go and may turn out to be false Gods. Why not drink from the ageless wisdom of good books, learning from the myriad experiences of some of the best of our species?

As Durant said, “When life is bitter, or friendship slips away, or perhaps our children leave us for their own haunts and home, let us come and sit at the table with Shakespeare and Goethe…”

But What Exactly To Read?

There is a book for every mood and occasion. Choosing few recommendations is not easy (±130 million books have been written!), so let’s decide how we will choose:

  • Life-changing: Will make us wiser. That can bring fundamental changes in our thinking and attitude, answer the big Why questions.
  • Engaging and Fun: We want to grow, but also enjoy the journey. We may not have the patience (yet!) to go through deep but boring books.

Let me start with a few recommendations from my side (click each link for more recommendations and a short summary)…

(If you want more, see my blog on 100 Books To Make Us Wise).

Part of what makes a book memorable is our own life experiences that can relate to it. So look out for what appeals to you. Obviously, choose the books very carefully. Good books can be an everlasting love affair, just as bad books can be more enervating than a date gone horribly wrong.

 

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