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Innovation In India--Part One.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on December 19, 2007

I believe India is in the early stages of an innovation and design explosion of enormous proportions—this is my conclusion after attending the CII-NID (Confederation of Indian Industry—National Institute of Design) Summit in Bangalore. If you are not already in India, you are late. This is true for manufacturing as well as services, industrial design as well as interaction web design. Go!

Why? Business is just beginning to wake up to the power of design and innovation in India. And the level of sophistication within the design and innovation community is extremely high. When the two connect, you will see an explosion of exports and a new surge of services coming out of India. I believe you will see it come at the same time from low-end manufacturing, such as cars, clothes and food, as well as the high, high-tech end in outsourcing. Keep in mind that

one of India's most exportable items is its amazing culture. The emphasis on being natural, emotional, authentic, colorful, spiritual, vibrant, fun--make it intensely attractive. Indian culture, in many ways, is what many young Americans and Europeans want in their lives. And it connects deeply to Brazilian, Italian and other cultures as well.

All kinds of products and services will come out of Indian culture. We are already seeing it in terms of Ayurvedic medicine and spas spreading in the US, Bollywood, of course, vedic management practices in business. We will much more of this as the fresh, vegetarian grains and foods begin to be packaged and sold worldwide, as the clothing industry takes off and as car manufacturing comes into its own. There is an amazing truck culture in India, where truck bodies are made locally and painted by local artists.

At the Summit, I was especially struck by the brilliant opening speech of Darlie Koshy, the Director of the National Institute of Design. He could have been talking at Institute of Design in Chicago or Stanford. Koshy said that design was about many things, from styling to strategy. He said that design thinking was going to be very important to India as it evolved its economy. Service innovation was critical since 69% of the Indian economy today was in services (very different from China).

Koshy said that India needed to develop design and innovation ecosystems, such as Stanford, where schools, business and consultancies came together to spark startups and create value. He called for big investments in design to get that done. Indeed, the government has just committed itself to expanding the number of design schools to meet the growing demand for designers and design thinkers in India.

Reader Comments

Pete Mortensen

December 19, 2007 9:11 PM

India's innovation practices are shockingly sophisticated. The advantages that the United States currently enjoys are starting to go away, and sooner than anyone thinks. When Jump's leaders went to India this spring, they met with 14 CEOs, CMOs and VPs of Innovation, and we expected all of them to be interested in what we call research-based product definition: What products should I be developing for the next five years, and how will they connect with people, and what's the strategic roadmap for roll-out?

Well, we couldn't have been more wrong. Indian companies feel that they've got it all mapped out in that regard, and they aren't wrong. Instead, they're focused on making the growth they've enjoyed over the last decade sustainable. They aren't focused on what's next. They're focused on how to build cultures of innovation in their organizations. The opportunities there are remarkable.


January 29, 2008 8:46 AM

I believe that 'Good design is embedded Happiness'.
And there is a price we are ready to pay for this happiness. However , if you look at the curiculum of business schools/the valuation models of investors and analysts there is no way of valuing this benifit. Hence the value of design is not captured.

Why I mention this is because while the opportunity scape in India is amazingly big, the fact is that most of the business leadeship is yet to get sensitised to good design. Design leadership (except for fashion)is a big vacuum in India , there was not enough time for design to throw up its leaders.

Hence most decisions are driven by professionals with control on money and who depend primarily on statistical models. I could not agree more with you regarding the urgent need to promote design thinking in business leadership.

The real opportunity is if we are able to promote design thinking in the political and business leadership in India. That will also take care of the environmental fears since design thinking is inherently human centered.

I am based in India and would like to help in any such effort.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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