Age of Innovation


Kjell Nordstrom & Jonas Ridderstrale in their book Funky business mentioned " The ‘surplus society’ has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices & similar quality."

Now, Here’s a quick exercise, on your next trip to the local retail mart -notice how many brands are available for a particular category. With plethora of similar products competing to satisfy a given need, how can companies ensure they are the preferred choice of customers thereby generating higher sales & commanding premium. How can one ensure their products & services are not commoditized.

If you look at the past decades, one of the competitive weapons that companies used, was to focus on quality (six sigma processes). As more & more companies gain expertise in quality processes, Quality was no longer being looked as a strategic advantage & as a result the products & services again started becoming commoditized.

Lately there has been a lot of focus on Innovation. The word Innovation is being talked about in boardrooms, business channels, Advertisements, Annual reports, Interviews, etc.

But why is there so much focus on Innovation & what exactly it is?

There are several definitions of Innovation but at the core it means generating & providing value which satisfy latent needs of consumer in a new & unique way.

Innovation helps create new customer base, transform businesses & ensure organic growth. The core outcome of an Innovation exercise is Opportunity Identification to serve a particular need of consumer not being fulfilled currently by anyone.

Take example of Air Deccan which identified the need of 99% Indians who could not afford air travel but had a latent need of flying. Similar could be the case with CavinKare’s Chik Shampoo which identified a need for low price, low quantity shampoo packets which led to the introduction of Chik Shampoo Sachet transforming the very nature of shampoo usage & packaging.

There are Ten types of Innovation in five major categories. These are as follows:

Innovation Category

Innovation Type

Description of type

Business Example (Indian)


1.Business model

How you make money

Amul & Lijaat Papad created unique business models through their co-operative business model structure.

2. Networks and

How you join forces with other companies for mutual benefit

ICICI partnered with Micro Finance Institutions thus expanding its retail operations in rural areas & leveraging comparative advantages of MFIs, while avoiding costs associated with entering the market directly.


3. Enabling process

How you support the company’s core processes and workers

Indian BPO industry provided better than market compensation & benefits to its young &recently graduated employees.

4.Core processes

How you create and add value to your offerings

Doctors at Aravind Eye Hospital perform 2000 surgeries against a national average of 220. This has been possible due to core focus of maximizing doctors time on productive activities & by implementing an assembly line scenario.   


5.Product performance

How you design your core offerings

Tata Nano has been designed to provide superior comfort & performance of car at an economical price.

6.Product system

How you link and/or provide a platform for multiple products.

Most of the Online Travel booking platforms (,,etc)have started to offer Railway tickets, Hotel bookings, Holiday package apart from booking airtickets thus becoming into a platform to meet all travel needs.


How you provide value to customers and consumers beyond and around your products

Maruti Suzuki set up a motor driving school to impart better driving skills at the same time inculcating safe driving culture. The company also introduced True value  (India’s no 1 pre owned car brand) to provide reassurance to existing car buyers about resale of their cars. 



How you get your offerings to market

Hindustan Lever partnered with Self Help Groups & created a distribution model named Project Shakti.



How you communicate your offerings

Jyothy Laboratories created  Ujala, a brand of liquid fabric whitener through offering unique product & by clear communication .

10.Customer experience

How your customers feel when they interact with your company and its offerings

Royal Enfield has created a community of motorcyclists passionate about riding, experiencing & exploring India on their Royal Enfields. 




Source: Doblin (Innovation Strategy Firm)

But the Question remains- How can one determine these Opportunities for growth & what are the traits of Innovators:

Design Thinking as a methodology is being used by companies to power their Innovation efforts. Design thinking involves looking through three set of lenses- User (What do people Desire), Business (What can be financially viable) & technology (what is technically feasible).

The process starts with people, to identify what they desire, what are their needs, aspirations, pain points, values. Once that has been known, the solutions/concepts are looked from the Business Viability & Technical Feasibility point of view. The key is to have a resonance between what’s meaningful for people & what’s profitable for companies.

Human Centered Design- An Introduction-IDEOSource: Human Centered Design- An Introduction-IDEO

A fundamental difference between design thinking & analytical thinking is that design thinking is about creating better things, while analytic thinking is about choosing between things.

Following are some of common traits of Design Thinkers:


Design Thinkers are empathetic towards customers, people, other stakeholders. They follow a principle of being people focused. They notice people’s needs, desires & pain points & create solutions which meet these needs. Eg: Ratan tata by looking at a family travelling on scooter felt a need to provide them affordable & comfortable transportation solution which led to the development of Tata Nano. Karsanbhai Patel looking at middle class consumers questioned, ‘why a detergent has to cost more’, which led to the development of Nirma.

Purpose Driven:

Design Thinkers are purpose driven. Dr Venkataswamy had a purpose to eradicate needless blindness in India & a quest to deliver affordable, quality eye care services to the poor which gave the rise to Aravind Eye Hospital. Tribhovandas Patel had a purpose to free the milk producer from the intermediaries & provide access to markets thereby ensuring maximum returns for their efforts. This laid the foundation of Amul.

Draw knowledge from diverse disciplines:

Design Thinkers take inspirations from multiple sources & use that knowledge to come up with Innovative Solutions. Dr Venkataswamy took Inspiration from the McDonalds & Coke being able to sell millions of burgers & sodas & used that knowledge to provide eyesight to millions of patients.

Challenge the existing mindset:

Design Thinkers challenge the existing mindset & shift it significantly. Captain Gopinath challenged the existing mindset that majority of Indians cannot fly & created Air Deccan providing affordable air travel to Indians.

Aim at not what is but what can be:

Major part of Design thinkers job is to envision & create. Very often design thinkers aim at not what is currently available but what there can be. The difference lies between choosing among alternatives to creating new.

With Increasing competition & new players entering into the market, Innovation is increasingly being looked as a way to differentiate at the same time be relevant to users. Both Internationally & domestically, Innovation has become the new destination & design thinking is being taken as the path to reach that destination.

[ This guest post is written by Neeraj  Jain, who writes blog on Ideas & Innovation ]

  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says

    Excellent post. I liked it.Often people mistake Innovation to Invention. The difference between innovation and invention is that invention involves the creation of new things from new ideas while innovation is the introduction of new concepts to improve that which already exists. Inventions in this case may be patented unlike innovations which are meant to be used by the public to improve existing ideas. Invention is concerned with a specific product while innovation addresses a wide range of concern seeking to better them.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  2. Vishal Gupta says

    Innovation is definitely the key – Most of the times it does not have to be something completely new – sometimes a minor alteration to a product so that it increases the ease of use can work wonders.

  3. Ankur Vyas says

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  4. online comedy show says

    Excellent post.

    Markets are flooded with innumerable brands selling same product for example say shampoo. There are several such shampoos which claim to control hairfall but none of them succeed. And now to sell conditioners and make people addicted to it they are being given free with shampoos :)

    Then water purifier companies. Now a days all companies are giving tall promises…….like “humse behtar agar koi purifier hai too aap ke paise waapis or Rs. 1 crore inaam” RO funda :)

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