India’s Innovation Stimulus

6. November 2011

Date: 06-11-2011


THE world hit seven billion people last week, and I think I met half of them on the road from New Delhi to Agra here in India. They were on foot, on bicycle, on motor scooters. They were in pickups, dented cars and crammed into motorized rickshaws. They were dodging monkeys and camels and cows. Somehow, though, without benefit of police or stoplights, this flow of humanity that is modern India impossibly went about its business. But just when your mind tells you that this crush of people will surely overwhelm all efforts to lift the mass of India out of poverty, you start to notice a pattern: Every few miles there’s a cellphone tower and a fresh-looking building poking out of the controlled chaos. And the sign out front invariably says “school” — engineering school, biotechnology school, English-language school, business school, computer school or private elementary school.

India is still the only country I know where you can find a billboard advertising “physics degrees.”

All these schools, plus 600 million cellphones, plus 1.2 billion people, half of whom are under 25, are India’s hope — because only by leveraging technology and brains can India deliver a truly better life for its masses. There are a million reasons why it won’t happen, but there is one big reason it might. The predicted really is happening: India’s young techies are moving from running the back rooms of Western companies, who outsourced work here, to inventing the front rooms of Indian companies, which are offering creative, low-cost solutions for India’s problems. The late C.K. Prahalad called it “Gandhian innovation,” and I encountered many examples around New Delhi. Read the rest of this entry »

The Breath of Life for Capitalism?

16. August 2009

 15. Juli 2009, 18:55:26 | Chris Meyer & Julia Kirby, HBR Blog

Dial 1298 for Ambulance, a new 911-style emergency dispatch service in Mumbai and neighboring cities, is a for-profit company with an intriguing business model. (Prior to Dial 1298, India’s cities had no such services, despite governmental efforts to establish them in the past.) Its financial success derives from the fact that it is linked to a separate and codependent nonprofit foundation. Read the rest of this entry »