Monday, September 6, 2010

Innovation in India

A few days ago I came back from India. Enriched, excited, happy. The diversity of life, colours, new values, new structures were overwhelming. My perception absorbed the many new combinations, possibilities, energies, information, attitudes. My universe has expanded. I would argue that if you have not experienced India you cannot claim that you understand what the world is all about, what the global economy is, and what the wheels of life are. One of my biggest fascinations was the traffic in the cities. No words can describe it really, by European standards, it is a vast morass of people, cows, cars, dogs, lorries, carriages, goats, pedestrians, all moving side by side in as many rows as the road permits. Everyone is moving forwards, mostly!! Dependant on their own capacity to move and find an opportunity for progress for her/him/itself.

Dr. Madanmohan Rao
Dr. Madanmohan Rao, Consultant/Author; BANGALORE
Blogs: Mobile:
Knowledge management:
Founder, Indian Proverbs project

Author: ICT4D: Learnings, Best Practices and Roadmaps from the Pan Asia ICT R&D Grants Programme (
Editor, Asia Unplugged (
KM Tools and Techniques (
News Media and New Media (
Leading with Knowledge (
The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook (

Co-founder, Bangalore KM Community (
Research Projects Director, Mobile Monday (
Conference Chair, Digital Africa Summit (

KM workshop outline:
KM course outline (master's level, one semester):

Official blogger, BaliSpirit Festival 2010

World Music Editor: Rave magazine, CluedIn

Travel writing:
The fascinating thing is that all other participants in the traffic chaos respect the others desire to move and allow them to pass. I cannot imagine that ever being the case on European roads. Such an attitude to life could also be a subconcious strength for India’s more and more powerful positioning within the global community. The other one is innovation. One of the great protagonists of this concept is Madanmohan Rao, an entrepreneur, publisher, professor, music expert, and appropriately, the person behind newly established chapter of InCo India. This is his view on innovation, InCo, InJo and potentials for global innovation ecosystems.

VB: What are India's major drivers for global prosperity and success?
MR: These days almost every global magazine has a story about the re-emergence of India after centuries of British colonial rule and decades of closed economy. Key drivers for India’s prosperity include a solid base of traditional wisdom, an affinity to engineering, local agricultural and mineral resources, large talent pool, young population, entrepreneurial spirit, democratic governance, freedom of the press, global diaspora, and a feeling of destiny that India’s time has come again to make a local and global impact on economy and culture.

VB: How would you evaluate India's drive for innovation? Where does India innovate most? What are her core strengths for innovation?
MR: I would assess India’s drive for innovation on multiple levels: start-ups, R&D, industry verticals, education, M&A activity, news coverage (traditional and social media), events, publications and consultancy services.

India has definitely made a mark by innovating in global offshore software and services industry, and has now become a major international hub for R&D and support in this sector (software products and IT hardware innovation are still lagging behind however). The automotive and pharmaceutical sectors have also stepped up the pace, as well as agro-business and bio-tech. Many management and technology schools have courses on innovation and competitions for business plans, but this should be extended laterally to the educational sector.

Indian companies are also listing on local and international stock exchanges and buying other companies around the world for their knowledge assets. Science and business IT get good coverage in the press, but there needs to be a stronger inter-disciplinary focus, as the pioneers of the InCo movement have rightly pointed out. More attention needs to focus on innovation in areas where India has the most pressing problems: water management, urban planning, transportation infrastructure, electrical power generation, and acceleration of skills in building technology.

Violeta Bulc and dr. Madanmohan Rao

VB: What are the biggest challenges for India to become innovative, and an innovation driven country with a global impact in innovation?
MR: The challenges that India faces, include internal tensions between members of some communities, poor allocation of public funds, and political infighting at various levels of government. On the innovation front, the innovation message needs to be communicated more clearly and regularly, and aspiring innovators need to be connected with their counterparts and participantss more effectively in the country and abroad. Innovation communication and entrepreneurship education need to expand from niche activities to mass movements. There have also been mixed reviews of the validity and quality of innovation metrics and surveys conducted by various research organisations; these can be fine-tuned better to India’s context.

VB: Why have you decided to initiate InCo India? Where do you see it's biggest potential? How do you relate to Slovenian initiatives and experiences?

MR: My first reaction when coming across the InCo community, especially in Slovenia, was: WOW! The aims of the movement and some of its features really resonated well for me: “excitement, dynamics, joy, inner satisfaction and realisation, a decent life;” “innovation space participants, for intergenerational interaction between the boldness of youth and the wisdom of experience”; “inter-structural, inter-generational and inter-disciplinary co-operation.”

As a researcher and writer who grew up in India and travelled and worked extensively overseas, I can immediately see new areas where India can add to models and frameworks in the InCo movement. These include: diaspora networks of innovation (between Indians in India and Indians in the US and Europe, for instance), development communications (using innovation in the context of emerging economies, eg. “bottom of the pyramid” citizens), conflict resolution (eg. innovative ways of promoting dialogue between communities in conflict), scaleable innovation (eg. taking innovations to much larger user bases), globalising innovation (eg. taking innovations from India to other emerging economies and to established economies).

There is also a natural connection between the knowledge movement and the InCo movement. In my book series on knowledge management (KM), I have highlighted case studies of Indian companies who have successfully used knowledge management to improve their productivity and learning capacity; the next logical step is to move into innovation space.

VB: Is there any potential for cooperation in the field of innovation between India, being such a huge country, and Slovenia, being one of the smallest? Where, how? Where do you see challenges and opportunities?
MR: Oh yes, there are lots of areas for possible collaboration! In fact the difference in size and culture actually lends itself well for comparative studies, best practices formulation, model assessments, and collaborative projects.
I see good potential in joint research, authoring of textbooks, organising events, designing awards, mentoring/twinning agreements, consultancy, and alliances between academic programmes, government initiatives and NGOs.

VB: What is going to be your first InCo move?

MR: Establishing contacts with members of the global InCo community! For instance, I have communicated with members of the InJo movement in California and Helsinki, and with community networkers in Austria.

A Web site domain name has already been registered (, and a Twitter account as well (

Dr. Madanmohan Rao

A book on the global InCo community which will include a chapter from India is also in the pipeline, as well as conference participation and workshops in Ljubljana in 2011.

The late great communications scholar Everett Rogers highlighted an exciting field with his landmark book, “Diffusion of Innovations” almost 50 years ago, and others authors have published groundbreaking books on global innovation and knowledge sharing (eg. Wikinomics by Don Tapscott, The Global Brain by Mohanbir Sawhney, The New Age of Innovation by C.K. Prahalad). We in the InCo movement can also play an important role in researching and promoting broad-based sustainable innovation models!

I look forward to terrific synergies and activities with the local and global InCo communities!

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