As featured on Spark the Rise (Mahindra Group) on Feb 28, 2014:
3 Ideas to Fire the Spark the Rise of Innovation in India.
I made socks for 8 years of my life. Now, you may think that 8 years is a long, long, time to be doing something as mundane as making socks. Well, that's not true! In those 8 years, I learnt so many tricks of innovation that it allowed me to leap straight out of a socks factory and land into starting an Internet business for online contesting (contests2win.com), and that too as early as 1999!
After having been in the digital business for 15 years, I believe there are 3 ideas that fuel the rise of massive innovation in India.
1. Believe in Creativity
Many of us believe that ‘creativity’ means something ‘artistic’ or something that only pony-tailed adpersons deliver. Not true at all. Creativity is Meru Cabs. Creativity is ‘Ask Me’. Creativity is home-delivery by Domino’s Pizza. Creativity is sachet packaging of shampoos.
In India, we have learnt to follow and do the done. We are scared to say, “Let me try”; instead we find it comfortable to say, “Everyone does it”.
Innovation is a direct descendant of Creativity. When someone scratches his head and wonders, “Why can’t water be sold”, a Bisleri is born.
Be Creative to be Innovative.
2. Be Happy to Fail
From the time we enter playschool, to the time we complete our PhDs, we are brainwashed into believing that we should not fail. In our valiant attempt to do so, we don't take risks, we don't experiment, we don't tread the un- trodden path and we don't INNOVATE.
In Silicon Valley today, top VC firms DO NOT want to fund entrepreneurs who have NOT FAILED. They think that failure is a badge of honor that only refines a person and makes her better than the best. For entrepreneurs, failing is a privilege.
In India, we must inculcate the habit of failing. Now, I don't mean that we ask school kids to fail – instead we ask them to try many more things and succeed in some and fail in others. For example, in our board exams, we can ask students to take up a ‘wild card’ subject (could be a hobby like playing an instrument). And that subject gets counted in the main scores ONLY if the student scores more in that subject than the rest of the mandatory subjects!
In offices, we don't tolerate failures. But we must know that Steve Jobs failed, was kicked out of his own Company and came back to create the Apple we all adore today. If he was immune to failing, we would’ve never had an iPhone!
Failing backed by reason and effort makes people better. It creates a strong desire to circumspect and innovate to try better the next time.
FAILURE is the antithesis of INNOVATION. And that is why it is so necessary!
3. Revel in Disruption
As a community, we are a bit too obedient. I was surprised to read a report that said that, “India was the only country that had no rebellion in its youth.” Like the hippies, punks and metal-wearing young people of the west, we had no such movement. Our kids listen to their parents and do what “Mummy and Papa want”.
Well, that's pathetic and this is a curse that needs to be lifted.
Now, I am NOT at all suggesting that we let our kids loose and get them tattooed! I am suggesting that we make them question what they are told, argue what they are explained and reject what they disbelieve.
Innovation arises from disruption. It is like the lava of a volcano that needs to erupt to be released.
The redBus founder was a rebel. When he missed a bus ride on Diwali day to go home, he did not shrug his fate and docilely accept that bus tickets could not be booked in advance. He went ahead and disrupted the Bus Travel Space. He made disruption his religion.
Richard Branson famously ‘disrupted’ the snooty British Airways to launch his Virgin Airlines brand. Zee TV’s Subhash Chandra had to buy a satellite in space to launch his Zee Network and disrupt the Doordarshan that we used to watch.
Today, when you sit back and enjoy a back massage in a Virgin Atlantic flight, you don't have the time to remember if such a treat, high up in the sky is an innovation driven by disruption!
Disrupt to Innovate.
Author – Alok Kejriwal
The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.