Gautam Raj Jain

UN Consultant in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Incubation

Concept Note On Ecosystems For Innovation In India


Perspective Building:

1.       Innovation[2] is the process of creating a demand when supply exist (old but unexploited products or existing inventions through stimulating the need for consumption among non-consumers) or creating a supply for which demand exist (unmet needs, fully or partially) or creating a demand and supply both (breakthrough technology leading to complete transformation of society and business through discovering hidden needs and desire leading to the process of inventing of new products and services). 

2.        The current support systems In India largely consist of a few technological research institutions, incubation centres, S & T parks, and venture capitalists and Angel investors.  But for a few IITs and select engineering colleges, most educational institutions and University lack capability in technological research and innovation. The support systems help innovators explore the market potentials through mentorship and incubation process. If the idea gets marketability, it may receive venture or angel funding. However, India is ranked very low on innovativeness with a few patents registered.

3.       The process of Innovations in India is largely an ad-hoc exercise and is considered equal to science and technology advances while potential sources for market driven innovation is achieved through discovering  the hidden needs and problems  of people and organisations.  In most cases, innovation leads in a situation of a gamble as proposers and supporters both have to indulge in patch-work finding consumers and market through a series of modification of the idea, concept and product.

4.       One of the fundamental reasons for not very encouraging results  of the investment in the current structure of ecosystems  is the lack of understanding of the power of crazy ideas as the most experts would say ‘ oh no, how is it possible? Is there a market or do we have capacity?  Will it not take much longer time?  Are not the returns going to be below the expectation levels and so on?  Right question that need to be asked in dealing with innovation is how do we make the crazy idea work?  There will be no readymade platform available for the new idea for attaining market success but a lot need to be done to create new market with consumer adopting a new behaviour or a new habit.  Therefore, innovation cannot be evaluated on yardstick of certainty.  The current shape of innovation may get actually evolved into drastically different forms and shapes when it actually hit the market in different cultures and consumers segments while creating a new world around it.

5.       How assessment of innovation go wrong is explained with a few examples: TV was invented in 1939, New York time did not think that TV had much of a future, then made statement that TV will not be a competition to radio as no average  American has time to glue their eyes on the screen . TV has become the most influential household item worldwide in USA in 20th Century itself. The first Mobile phone was sold for RS. 15000 in 1983 which is now available for less than Rs. 1500 and affordable and usable by poor and illiterate people.  Laser in 1960 was invented without any obvious usefulness to anyone. Today, it has become integral part of best surgery in Medical field, making compact CDs, computer printers and invoice making in super markets and so on.

6.       The current ecosystems lacks of systematic efforts on building innovation capacity of people and organisations, and the process and technology of creating innovation which consist of research on discovering human needs and desires, validation mechanism, encouragement for breakthrough ideas and concepts,  multidisciplinary teams for discovering new products at multilevel, experimentation, changing the habits of people for creating  a new market, development of leadership to sustain innovation and new market and so on.


7.        The positive development today is that young mind in the age group of 22 to 27 wish to build their careers around their own new ideas. Out of 100 young people who believe in this, only 10 to 20 continue to persists, only two people out of them reach a level to either get into incubation systems and/or present their cases for VC funding.  The reason is that the innovators has to work on their own in most cases to bring the idea to a level of a product or services having marketable potentials. A large number of good ideas die before the birth.  A well motivated person needs support in developing competence and handholding throughout the process of invention, innovation and venturing.

8.       On the other hand, out of the 50 cases that is presented to VC, only 5 get VCs’ funding. The reason is the project either would not yield the desirable rate of return or lack market potentials or team lacks the competence (to be able to do everything under the sky). Large number of potentials ideas would die at the time of ‘delivery’ or infant stage due to traditional mindset and process of evaluation of innovative project.  

9.       Further, out of 10 projects funded by VCs, only 2 would succeed in immediate future. It is not still known as to how many new ventures sustain beyond 7 to 10 years.

Proposed framework for an Effective Ecosystem in India

1.        A successful innovation would involve four major competence –

a.    Technological - idea, research, concept discovering, validates the concept, inventing a new products in a lab with Scientist and engineers, designers and sociologists and psychologists, development of applications, testing products and assumption and development of prototypes and ecosystems for production systems.


b.    Entrepreneurship - converting into market reality – perception of value for society continuously from new ideas, new concept or of new and old products by changing the habit and life style of people through introducing new products in their day to day living – changing the way people and organisation conduct themselves. At this level technological idea is converted into a sustainable market reality through development of entrepreneurial capabilities.

c.     Strategy – capturing the market share and reaching out to potential consumers through branding, franchise, communications, packaging and so on. At this stage innovators’ capabilities are developed to perceive and conceive strategies which would capture and sustain the market share.  A strategy can lead to breakthrough modifications of the idea and value perception initially developed at entrepreneurship stage.  The competence become handy in building an insight for scalability and creating structure,  systems and process for cost reduction, mass consumptions at the multiple levels of consumption (value chain), in multiple industries, communities and cultures.

d.    Leadership -creating innovative organisational systems for growth and quality like 3M, P&G, Apple, Google or facebook. At this stage innovators need to be transformed with competence in leadership ( a young innovator may need this).  It is the leadership which would help create value driven organisations and ensure multiple level of innovation and continuity.  Most ventures based on innovative products fails in sustaining due to lack of capacity in building innovative organisation and culture for continuity of innovation.


2.         All the four competence listed above are rarely found in one person or demonstrated by one person initially at a time. There is a need for nurturing each of these competence through an action oriented and co-creation process among prospective innovators through creating a new ecosystem (a laboratory for innovators and innovations) and culture (idea, creativity, dream, imagination, nothing is impossible attitude, no evaluation or criticism).   

3.         There is a need for institutions and leaders who promote people and market driven innovation through a systematic process of development of new products and new market and help innovators transform through experiential and participatory methods in development of all the four competence. 

4.         These institutions should be well equipped with the culture and the team having competence in all the four areas mentioned above with physical support and global network. The following activities are envisage:

a)      Development of engagement plan for each prospective innovator to develop both innovations and innovators through a systematic and co-creation process.

b)      Develop inventory of new ideas through continuous research on people with different demographic and behavioural profile.  These would be done through internship programme and also by team at Alchemy researching and creating new ideas and concept.

c)        Work on existing products or inventions or products having low potentials in market exploitation would be re-researched and modified to develop marketable products.

d)      Closely work with research institutions, incubation centres, and network with mentors, venture capitalists and other innovation centres and technology experts globally

e)      Offer IPR and licensing services and buy shareholdings in venture being assisted or other partners such as research agencies, venture capitalists as a part of promotion.

f)        Sensitise Indian institutions, corporate, VCs, industry mentors to develop inventive and innovative attitude and competence. Alchemy would offer internship opportunity to students and help them plan their careers in innovation.

[1] Dr. Gautam Raj Jain, Currently, Consultant for UN Organization in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Incubation.  Formerly Senior Professor, Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad and Director of Jaipuria, Institute of Management

[2] Drucker (1999) identifies entrepreneurship with personalities who have strong commitment to ‘systematic practice of innovation’