I recently worked on 15 Indian Business Innovation Case Studies that will be published by Technology Development Board, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India very soon. It was a great learning process and I got to speak to some of the Innovators after a few years, as I did stories on them for another publication a few years back. It was encouraging to see some businesses have grown both financially and in their scope while most have built scale. Some new cases came and provided another new business to study.
Here are some of the insights from this study:
- Constant Innovation: Most businesses that had started in last 5-7 years and have reached a mature state now have continues to fine tune themselves to the market and the customers. They started with a premise or a hypothesis, with a market view in mind but they continuously re-invented themselves as they realized the market needs first hand, as they received feedback from customers, as the technology evolved and they set themselves new targets to achieve. At no point in time they let go of their nimbleness and assume that they are right and customer should adapt for them. The ones who did not do so, were no longer on the scene.
- Social Entrepreneurship is a viable business has been demonstrated by many of the new age innovators. There are two ways in which social entrepreneurs engage with the Bottom of Pyramid (BoP) population – One as consumers for the products and services they sell, or as a potential market to be served , and Second as producers where they produce for the urban and global markets. In the first case they prove that people in BoP segment are profitable customers willing to pay for the dependable products and services, that they can use. They can be profitable through economies of scale. In the second case, as producers, they need someone to bridge the gap between them and the markets, take their products to the markets and bring the needs and sensibilities of the market to them. Social entrepreneurs make money while enabling many others to live a better life and by making it a commercially viable venture they ensure the sustainability of the initiative. A lot of them have also demonstrated that it is possible to build scale while working in rural India, in villages across the length and breadth of the country. You need to experiment with the new business models, taking already proven models and tweaking them, you need to learn from the experience, take feedback from all stakeholders and keep on improving it till it makes mainstream.
- White Space: Many new age businesses find a white space in the emerging world, i.e. an emerging need that probably did not exist in the past, or a need that is still emerging but may take bigger proportions over a period of time. They address the problem as it happens and have a major first mover advantage. 20% of the cases I did were on addressing the issue of waste management, an issue that has emerged in the recent past with rapid urbanization and coming up of new types of wastes with it.
- Use of Digital Media: Apart from the ventures based in online world, the use of social media and digital platforms is very limited, though each one of them have a website. Most entrepreneurs though use some kind of PR to promote themselves.
- Technology and Design are the two main differentiators for designing and implementing new solutions that are effective.
Most businesses studies here are somewhere impacting the lives of their customers and partners, and this is what is eventually keeping them in business.