21 June 2011

Are Indians still the imitators, not the innovators?

Are we still copying the West? Aren't we grown up to be called as innovators rather than imitators? This remains to be a hot topic of discussion as many feel that innovations in India are not a very rare activity rather they often go unrecognized while others argue that the habit of imitating the West still haunts India and this will block the Indian minds to venture into real innovative activities.

India is fast growing to a phase where it's already termed as a global innovator for high-tech products and services; however, the innovative potential of the country is largely relatively underperformed. According to the marketing advisory firm Zennov, there has been an 11 percent increase in creating Intellectual Property in India. Indian researchers and companies have been filing 36,000 patents annually. However, the study reveals that India is trailing behind China files around 4,00,000 annual patents which is a clear sign that our immediate neighbor is far ahead of us in innovations despite the fact that large number of patent holders and applicants globally are Indians.

It's an indisputable fact that India's rapid economic growth is giving a great boost to its efforts to create its own innovations and not just relying on imitation. The notion that Indians are imitating than innovating is quite an outdated view and the fact is that the country is updating its technologies quite fast which will undoubtedly boost innovation. Although China and the West seems to be much ahead of India in terms of technological innovations, India stands tall in frugal-innovations - in ultra low-cost products and services for the poor.

The rush of Western MNCs like Google, Microsoft GE, and Cisco, to India will definitely enhance innovation further as they increase their R&D spending to stay in forefront in this huge emerging market. The country should look ahead to benefit from the increasing competition by producing stronger skills, better infrastructure to unleash innovation. More early stage funding will enable the bright minds to materialize their innovative ideas. Lastly, but most importantly the diaspora needs to be tapped more effectively. Inclusive innovation should be the ideal goal where R&D efforts for poor should be scaled up and the ability of informal enterprises to be improved further to exploit existing knowledge, which would be backed by realistic and time bound implementation plan.