Book Review : “India Inside : The Emerging Innovation Challenge to the West” by Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam
“India Inside : The Emerging Innovation Challenge to the West” is a new book authored by Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam, renowned professors at the elite London Business School. The book is published by Harvard Business Review Press and released in Nov 2011.
This book is about the “invisible” innovation which India today provides to a multitude of corporations and entities around the world. The book starts with questions like “Where are the Indian Googles, iPods and Viagras?” and “Can Indians innovate?”. Valid questions but which make slight of the fact that innovation is much more than consumer facing direct innovation. Indian ingenuity is enmeshed in so many products other multinationals make – likes of GE, Microsoft, IBM, AstraZeneca, Intel, Motorola and many others.
Globally Segmented Innovation :
As Western firms have outsourced large parts of the IT and research work to their Indian divisions and R&D labs, the skill profile of the Indian worker is increasing and firms are increasingly entrusting them with higher-end tasks. In this regard, the authors talk about the Skills Ladder concept – which says that when one creates an army of talent at the bottom of the product development pyramid, it is likely that innovation leaders emerge from this lot and remain in the geography where they are situated – as such, one can say that, thanks to Western outsourcing, a huge no of Indian engineers and innovators are being trained and are likely to boost the local innovation ecosystem via new entrepreneurial ventures or contributions to domestic economy.
In short, there is a talent shift to Asia from the Western hemisphere, which in turn will lead to accelerating growth and innovation in that part of the world.
Outsourced R&D :
For multinationals, Indian service providers like Wipro, Infosys, Tata and HCL are conducting outsourced R&D in labs all across India. Wipro pioneered the concept of outsourced R&D with it’s innovative Product Engineering Services division or PES starting way back in early 80s. Infosys products like Finacle and others like i-Flex have become global leaders in banking and finance. Outsourcing of R&D to India-based outfits creates talent pools in that part of the world and self-perpetuates further innovation and increased western investments.
Process Innovation – An Injection of Intelligence :
Indian call centers are often staffed with folks who are normally more qualified than a mundane call center job. This has caused the so called “injection of intelligence” into the mundane call center and BPO processes – processes which the Western world had written off as commoditized and boring. As a result, call center outsourcer 24/7 is injecting analytics-driven market intelligence into customer service calls and interactions – thereby increasing web / phone consumer loyalty and conversion rates. Higher qualified Indian talent is converting routine BPO processes into more strategic higher-value initiatives for western clients, thereby increasing ROI on outsourcing even more.
Management Innovation – The Global Delivery Model :
Infosys and other Indian IT firms have pioneered the global outsourcing and cost efficiencies which can be achieved in large projects. Saving costs and making the process faster, leaner and efficient is certainly innovation in it’s own right.
Visible Innovation – Frugal Engineering :
The emerging Asian middle class is known to demand and desire Western style products at cheaper cost. The Indian concept of “Jugaad” - or an ability to make do with less resources and still get things done, is now finding acceptance as a strategy in global Boardrooms. Tata Nano (and more recently Aakash tablet, I might add) are changing the debate of value vs cost. Developed markets are fascinated by Indian creations like Tata Nano and are studying such models closely to see how a quality mass market product can be developed at such a lower cost.
The authors also acknowledge the India’s innovation challenges eg slow bureaucracy, lack of infrastructure, lack of capital and population’s risk-averse nature. However, the Indian innovation train has started and few can turn the clock back now. As such, authors provide recommendations to both Indian and Western firms as to how to leverage or face the oncoming Indian innovation onslaught. We highly recommend this book to those who are interested in learning about the India’s growth and innovation story.
CellStrat Book Rating : **** (4 out of 5 stars)
December 1st, 2011