Re-inventing Innovation

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Let us first define innovation as it has been a commonly used and misused buzzword: Innovation is the generation of real Value which in simple terms as put by David Wittenberg, Innovation guru equates to Benefit over Cost. It is the conversion of information into valuable knowledge & ideas and subsequently into a significant benefit which may be new or improved products, processes or services. It is a means to realize the potential of invention by commercializing it which the customer is willing to pay for. A systematic Innovation Management philosophy follows through the entire process from ideation, prioritization, implementation to monitoring. Another great definition by WhatIf, the innovation company is: Innovation = Insight x Ideas x Impact.


The Desire for 'Simplexity'... Less is More!

Innovation today is all about time to market with a simple and straight forward offering, the benefits of which need to be evident and transparent. Simplicity has become the new mantra of Innovation that the west has aspired and delivered some good examples but now this is being perspired more so from the east. It is all about hiding the complexity in the back-end while providing an enriched, superior and great user experience for the consumer. A term I coined a decade ago in our industry called 'Simplexity' (as a horizontal theme) which is about the need for simplicity (stressing on the Total User & Product Experience) in an increasingly complex ecosystem, device or architecture.

Adapting a saying from Leo Tolstoy: '..and where there is no Simplexity, Goodness & Truth, there can be no greatness'.


The next big thing as the world truly gets flatter — Reverse Innovation ! Re-defining GLocal ...

One mega-trend we observe in the re-invention of Innovation in this new age is that of Reverse Innovation. Reverse Innovation is where an innovation is developed and/or adopted first in the developing world then deployed in mature markets. It is an interesting trend which is bringing a whole new meaning and perspective compared to traditional innovation. A phenomena that emerging markets such as BRIIC countries are increasingly exhibiting. We also see a lot more potential for breakthrough innovations with this approach. Some good examples of reverse innovations are GE's $1000 hand-held ECG, $15,000 PC based ultra-sound machine or the Rs, 3,500 Chotucool fridge from Godrej, Tata's nano. Building from the grounds up with a deeply value driven approach is core to these. Prof. Vijay Govindarajan shed light on Reverse Innovation from his 3-box innovation strategy of managing the present, selectively abandoning the past and creating the future where he sees the unmet needs of the billions living in emerging economies. Thus we need to evolve the strategy on effectively managing learnings from the past and creating a brighter future. There are an increasing number of solutions that are made in India for the rest of the world.

Move over, here comes Rural India...


With 70% of India's population living in rural (& over 60% of the mobile growth) we have majority of our innovation efforts focussed in that domain. We have in the pipeline innovation projects to boost the livelihood of rural communities, targeted offerings for rural enterprise and farmer's to enrich their productivity by ICT enablement providing meaningful knowledge on their finger-tips. We see reverse innovation playing a prime role here with sizeable BOP (Bottom-of-the-Pyramid) market and grass-root inspired ideas. Connected the Unconnected has been pushed globally by GSM Association with programs like the Emerging Market (Ultra Low Cost) Handset development. Locally the Indian government has been playing a major role in uplifting the 600k villages with tools like the USOF (Universal Services Obligation Fund). Jagdish Sheth, author of the famous book CHINDIA rising has transformed the 4Ps of traditional marketing to 4As, i.e. Awareness, Accessibility, Affordability and Acceptability all being essential for rural market development.

Apps Galore ...

One of the thriving innovations we have witnessed in the mobile industry over the last couple of years is the growth of mobile apps - the exponential growth started with Apple's AppStore for the iPod/iPhone/iPad family of devices. Now we notice a plethora of application stores. Through a widget approach applications are the true connect of relevant and compelling content to boost productivity and enjoyment for end users. It seems we have a huge appetite for apps, innovation has leaped its way with a wide range of applications in the areas of 3D, augmented reality, LBS, social networking, multi-player interactive gaming, etc. The iPhone has been a major trigger as a connected platform with out-of-the-box apps using multi-sensors for input and output taking user experience to a new realm with the compelling WOW factor.


Device Vendors and Mobile Network Operators (e.g. Wholsesale App Community) have made several announcements and we took to the stage with eStore being launched with over 30k apps. This mega-trend is boosting the development of even more innovative micro-segmented applications. A new chapter opens with Apps & Connectivity being the central theme of this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. 50 billion connections+ by 2020 is not a mere vision but a true goal as we focus in multiple sectors (transport, healthcare, utilities, education, government, media, etc.) with embedded devices and machine to anything (m2a). The twittering / connected tree was a great showcase we showed at MWC with a use case of m2n (machine-to-nature)!

Devices, Content & Experience take centre stage to win consumers ...

It is said Content is King!, those enabling it are Queen but the Customer and eventually end user/consumer who is King Kong - the ultimate stakeholder (at the centre of the value web) who will be the winner as our industry turns a page in its history. We are witnessing the transformation into a new era of control and power of the truly connected world. The mobile industry landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade from a value chain driven to a complex value web with new stakeholders to the ecosystem gaining power and control. The mobile device itself has transformed from a mere communication device (the handset) to a lifestyle phenomena with convergence (& also divergence to some extent) coming out of the box. One may forget their wallet, keys or watch but doing without the mobile phone is getting impossible !! It is rightly dubbed as the ultimate intimate object! It has been strongly influenced from adjacent and converging industries such as consumer electronics and computing. Overall it has changed the way communication is perceived and used the result of which is evident with spend or share of customer wallet coming from vastly wider sources.


Re-creating a new Si Valley ...

An interesting discussion has been around how can we replicate a Si Valley type phenomena in India. I feel it cannot apply directly but the culture of entrepreneurship and open knowledge sharing with collaborative minds can achieve wonders. We are seeing that happen as the likes of multiple industry segments, government and academia join hands with a reverse innovation approach to bring a whole new meaning of 'GLocal'. So a new scale and different dimension of a Si Valley awaits us. The reverse brain-drain rather brain-gain is doing wonders for India as a lot of global talent is returning back to roots or mother-land.

The youth in India are now more global than ever, they are quite switched on and ahead of the curve in many cases as early adaptors. Tech-savviness and being up-to-date with the latest and greatest along with high aspirations & thought provoking ideologies is changing the face of the new India we live in. With over 54% under the age of 25 (and 45% under 19) and the youngest population world-wide we are sure to witness some game changing innovations.


With record breaking monthly additions, almost 600m mobile subscribers and an hyper-competitive operator landscape (~8 to 12 operators per circle) there is a intrinsic need to innovate. Voice going almost free, again India having the lowest call rates all eyes are set on Value Added Services (VAS) and rich media & data offerings. 3G will address broadband penetration although we are set to leapfrog with an all IP backbone and wireless infrastructure with little legacy systems to hinder the progress to catch up and hopefully lead the world in mobile coming with a whole new perspective.

Innovation as a mindset...

We need to cultivate it as a habit (or attitude) with every single individual responsible to contribute their part. As a pivot to our new brand and core values Ericsson is all set to taking us forward in these changing times and being a prime driver in an all-communicating world. Our mission of innovating to empower people, business and society comes with a strong responsibility to create a meaningful impact for humanity.


Innovation can manifest in several forms from operational efficiencies, business model optimizations to product and service related. It is as much about execution as it is about creativity. The passion to innovate must eventually come from the heart where we can turn our dreams into reality without losing the essence of its USP and ESP (Unique & Emotional Selling Propositions).

An Open innovation concept is essential and we are gearing ourselves in that mode with close collaboration from seeding the idea to rapid prototyping with partnering with the likes of customers, research organizations, academic institutes, etc. Customer intimacy is crucial, ideas germinate only when you have an in-depth understanding of their gaps & pain-points. Along with using consumer/market insights and ethnographic research usually incremental or evolutionary innovations emerge. Radical or Disruptive do not follow the standard processes and are usually inspired from areas stepping outside your own industry and generic rivers of thought looking at combinations with other domains applying a lot more of foresight. This becomes a lot more about customer shaping once they are realized. An example of this is the sixth sense concept from MIT media labs.

Sustainovate will be a key way forward...

We will see a lot on sustainability and eco/clean-tech based solutions that will be pillars to the next wave of innovations in emerging markets. A need that has been felt in developed nations which will be demanded a lot more in emerging markets. A greater number of initiatives in green innovation are shifting to these fast developing nations. We at Ericsson are proactive with numerous initiatives in progress from eco-friendly power to base-stations to a unified tower-tube offering. With an increasing focus on reducing carbon footprint the market will open doors to numerous innovative technologies.

In summary ...

There are big expectations from India to bring innovation at centre stage so let's gear up our thinking caps and nurture the sparks that we can churn into big revenue generating opportunities. Let's be inspired and get energized as we charge ahead to lead this new wave in bringing cutting edge Innovations to our market and take them global as best practices. Let us dream and shape a better future for tomorrow. As Shiv Khera (a great inspirer) puts it: Dreams are not what you have when you sleep, dreams are those that don't let you sleep.

Collaboration will be key to taking this forward. I think more so in India there is a need to find optimal alliances to build powerful propositions and find a win-win for all stakeholders. With R&D centers, Innovation hubs, manufacturing and competence centers being established here we are poised for tremendous growth and bringing a new wave of Globalization making the world even flatter ! There is work to be done and we need the nation to bring a new culture of more risk-taking along with enhanced creativity.

Adding value with key benefits along with delighting consumers, the customer's customer will be the ultimate goal.

Speed is of essence, Rupert Murdoch put's it well: 'The world is changing very fast, big will not beat the small anymore, it will be the fast beating the slow'. So time to market is more than the need of the hour !! The future needs to be shaped and not predicted, an anonymous person has put it well: The world is moving so fast that there are days when the person who says it can't be done is interrupted by the person who is doing it.

I like to end adapting a quote from the Mahatma (Mr. Gandhi): “True Innovation is when what you think, what you say & what you do are in Harmony”

By Anuraj Gambhir, Ericsson India