View from India: Innovate to survive in the digital world

A growing thrust for software products and digital functions is pushing organisations to create cost-effective scalable solutions. This has raised the bar for innovation.

Innovation should not be for the heck of it, or merely to appear good in front of other organisations. It should serve a purpose.

That’s a point made strongly in the recent ER&D Quarterly Immersive Series produced by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM).

“When we look at the business benefits of innovation, the key differentiators could be lowering the cost of R&D,” said Gopinath Balakrishana, senior director, systems design engineering at Western Digital. “Innovation in the Indian context brings to mind upcoming connectivity for five billion endpoint devices. Only 10 per cent of it is likely to be stored. So then the concern is to create more storage devices.”

Innovation should enable much more storage as data from many more devices needs to be stored. With this, comes concerns of security. This in itself gives scope for new ideas for secure solutions. Another aspect is that the performance requirements of endpoint devices is going up. Hence it’s important to achieve scale and lower costs. For instance, the cost of hardware may be lowered by lowering the cost of components.

Organisations cannot survive on a single innovator. It’s a team work and in some cases, it never stops. One may have to constantly innovate either to keep pace with the competitors or to address cost issues. “One per cent of our organisation concentrates on innovation,” highlighted Mohan BV, chief expert and head of technology strategy, Bosch Global Software Technologies. “They are encouraged with an innovation fund so that the innovative idea can be pitched from any part of the organisation. Some loud thinking leads us to the point where the OEM or customer want to co-create innovation that could be used in service.”

Whatever the case may be, it becomes necessary to build talent to execute the innovation journey. Talent and capability are key to success. “We have built awareness from the time the employees come on board and motivate them to generate ideas,” added Balakrishana. “’She Invents’ is our in-house initiative for women. Women mentors guide women to ideate. Each team has a functional leader.”

In the consumer products space, there’s a need to lower costs. New technology adoption is pertinent to take it forward. The challenge is to build capability and credibility into it. Innovation should happen at speed so that the critical mass is at place. Probably easier said than done. Every new technology brings its share of challenges, for which the logical and physical aspects of the device may scale up once in a decade. New technology comes in with higher design margins. So the issue is to build in solutions that meet the requirements of higher performance levels.

This opens up opportunities for developers, coders, programmers, consultants and testers. They can collaborate for the end-to-end design, comprising development, validation and design that could happen in India. Teams may work on innovative measures to prevent costs from escalating. Innovation should happen within the process to productise. The team needs to gear up for a newer approach; and gauge what products could be shifted to the left and what can be done for better management of inventory, assets and compliance.

When we look at the mobility space what comes to mind is how innovative cars can make a difference. Is it merely cutting-edge innovation or enabling features from consumer point of view? “Our core strength lies in mobility, for which patents are filed. When we moved into software, patent filing was probably not a priority. That’s because the lifecycle of the product could not always align with the software acceleration,” explained Mohan.

Looking back in the previous decades the focus has been on physics and maths. This decade the thrust has been on software services and digital applications, for which India has the expertise. That’s probably reason enough for products to be made in India. Mobility is more oriented towards software and digital. The physical components of electric vehicles (EV) is moving more into the software zone. This could be the driving force for mobility companies to innovate and re-orient the approach as per the market requirements.

The innovation journey could be dotted with risks. There’s a nagging fear that the product may fail or that the market may not adopt. Challenges in innovation could be in terms of patent filing, funding and getting the right resources and working with customers. Sometimes a stakeholder approach may work to navigate the nuances in product development. Then how does one build the ecosystem for start-ups? They need to be discovered, nurtured, incubated and aligned with the DNA of the organisation. Innovation happens at every stage. 

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles