Innovation Series #7: Innovation Gap – Part 2

8 12 2008

I wrote about how the “Auto-Rickshaw” saw stagnant innovation in the last two decades of playing active role in commuting across the country. In this post, I will be short and sweet on my observations in mobile space. 

I am fortunate to be part of HeadStart, a not-for-profit organization working towards building entrepreneurial eco-system in India. We have been active more close to one-and-half years and during 2008, I interacted with many entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs. 

Quite a few of the entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs I met are into mobile space and working on one feature or the other. Many are quite optimistic of the solutions they provide and how the end-user can benefit by their innovation. Even the potential investors are very active in mobile space. 

Well, being an active GPRS user, I am happy to try various applications and how friendly they are to me. I love the BTIS map on my mobile and the Google search tool bar which really helps to me quickly search for what I want. There are a whole range of mobile products which come in handy too. Fring is one application which is useful for people who which to be connected to friends all the time and Twitter has made its mark. 

There are other useful applications being developed too. Take a look at Numo, a mobile platform for BulkSMS and SMS Reminders for key aspects of life (Health, Pet Health etc). 

I do not have a list off my finger-tips to share with you the other innovative ideas, but would like to focus on a simple case study and Destructive Innovation coming from a major player in search – Google.

Population of Bangalore is around 62 Lakhs (6.2 Million). For benefit of this illustration, let us consider that 100% of the population carries a mobile. In the 100%, let us assume that 50% (3.1 Million)use GPRS service. In the 50% user base of GPRS users, how many actually take time to search for a particular service / product in the area they are currently located? I am not under-estimating, but let us assume that around 50% of the 50% GPRS users use the service, which brings the number close to 1.5 Million (1,500,000). This is a classic example of the Bottom of the Pyramid concept. We are looking at the top of the pyramid user base and estimating the idea to be changing the way we live. What we need to remember here is the middle and bottom of the pyramid users who are not even knowing about the service. So, the target population for a value added service on mobile (with GPRS account) is very less. 

Google, on the contrary came up with an innovative solution – Voice Search. This search is already launched in Hyderabad, India. We have other search companies like – Just-Dial etc, and differentiating the search is up to you, as a user. Now, this is what I call Destructive Innovation. Just look at the outreach for this value added service – it is 100% of the users. Added to the service, the number users have to call is a toll free number too. In simple words, without spending a single penny, any mobile user can use this service. How different! 

Innovation is just not about an idea reaching the end user, but how well it dissolves in the DNA of the system is what need to be identified.





Innovation Series #6: Innovation Gap – Part 1

6 12 2008

I am writing this post with an intent of sharing my thoughts on small innovation gap’s which I commonly see (I will definitely not be able to list many gap’s, but if you notice a gap, then please post it as a comment for this post).

Wikipedia has a good introduction to Innovation and hence, will not go in detail.

What inspired me write this post is the amount of attention Innovation is getting these days and the number of aspirants thinking of doing something different from others.

Auto-Rickshaw

Let us look at a common example – For how long have you been seeing an auto-rickshaw, aka ‘auto’? (If you not an Indian, probably its a good idea to search on google for some pictures of auto). Well, let us say for our understanding that it has been close to 20 Years since there have been autos. Search for some pictures of the earlier auto’s and when you compare the look and feel to the current day’s auto’s, you will not find any major changes except for few ‘look’ changes. Every time we get into an auto, we know how dangerous it is and also few times, very uncomfortable. Try speaking to any auto drivers, you will understand how frustrating it is for them too. You sit in the auto for couple of minutes to reach your destination, but just imaging the plight of the driver who drives it all day long – during summers, rains and floods. There are not many options to customize the auto too (even though we have more auto’s in the country than cars, which have quite a number of re-design / re-model shops). Now, I am not speaking of extravagant modification’s, but bare minimum things.

An example I can quote here is the wiper on the windshield. Did you notice that the wiper is not automatic unlike the car? It has to be moved using a small handle inside to clean the glass. First of all the vehicle is a three-wheeler with a handle. Gears on the left side and accelerator on the right side with also the front break. Is there a way the driver can leave the handle on one side and continuously keep cleaning the glass? Its not only a pain, but the most dangerous.

When you look at the drivers seat, you also understand that there is no appropriate care taken to design the same. The distance between the seat and the handle is a bit longer and it poses great health issues to the driver, especially if he/she has a moderate body structure.

Do you think auto’s have suspension? Well, if you think so, check it out next time. There is suspension for all the wheels, but only because they have to be and not to address the actual reason for having them 🙂

If I go on, there are even more – the headlight is as small as a moped (miniature version of a bike) and there is no luggage space too.

This is what I call “Innovation Gap”.

There are various factors which govern the Innovation Gap – Competition, acceptance, target audience market saturation are to list a few.

  • If there is no competition and the manufacturer is almost a monopoly, then the chances of Innovation are very low.
  • Naturally, when there is no acceptance in the market, then there is no motivation for Innovation
  • Target audience makes a very huge impact. When you know the customer will adjust, again there is nothing motivating for innovation. Also, there are products/services in the market which get the customer to get accustomed and thereby reducing the thought process for innovating new aspects to the product/service.
  • Market saturation – When you know the market size and very well assured that it would not grow, you tend to do things which are easy for you rather than enhancing the product and trying new things.

Out Auto example above is a classic illustration of how Target audience and Market Saturation drive Innovation. Also, there are not many companies which manufacture auto’s and hence the existing manufactures have no motivation to enhance the product. I agree that over the last 2 years, there have been 5/6/8 seater auto’s coming into market, but the design is sill the same (well almost, the handle bar is replaced with a steering wheel).

I will conclude this case study here, but assure you that there is more to come..





Innovation Series #2

9 02 2008

Well Well, the week has been pretty hectic for me. In this issue I have few interesting links to share with you and before that, let me share you interesting information on 1.6 Lakh ($3500) Tractor which is making rounds in news. Bhanjibhai Mathukiya, a small time innovator from Junagadh, has created a mini tractor of 10 HP (Horse Power), after being moved by the plight of the small groundnut and orchard farmers in Saurashtra. This is the power of thinking minds. We definitely need 1 Lakh car and a Rs.10,000 2-wheeler, but we also need innovation at the grass root level to sustain our living. Just imagine having huge building, good houses, affordable and comfortable transport systems etc provide quality of life, however, what if we dont have any thing to eat? Does it make sense? In the last 10 Years, the price of rice which we buy from the dealer has not gone up by more than 5% at the farmers end. But, we have been seeing huge price raise in the rice we buy at regular intervals. This simply means that the more money you are paying the shop is actually going to the trader who is selling rice and almost negligible amount is going to the farmer. There is another similar innovation to the poor farmer – “Bullet Sathi” where there is a lost cost equipment which is fitted to an Bullet (2 wheeler brand in India) which can help the farmer in various activities during farming.The above two are classic examples of innovation at the roots and affordable solutions to the bottom of the pyramid farmers.Found an interesting link on Pluggd.In by Sharada on choosing your firms Legal Avatar





Power of Idea

31 01 2008

This is one of the most sort of terminologies we hear. All of us have ideas – ideas in our daily life, work, home etc. Then what is “Power of an Idea?” When you read an interview of any successful businessman or when you talk to people who run companies (entrepreneurs), one thing which you commonly hear is the power of an idea. Many aspiring entrepreneurs ask this question in forums – What do VC’s look for? and again, the common answer is “The idea”.

Let us examine this term with few known examples which created history.

We all know that the first attempt to fly was made by Wright Brothers in 1903, and also, most of us think that an airplane was invented at that time. But actually, the first draft of an airplane was made by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15 Century. This was the time an idea was born. After that, after close to 400 years, Wright Brothers dreamed big and brought out the idea of flying and today, we just cannot live without an airplane.

To quote a more recent example, Ratan Tata dreamed of having a common man’s car. He noticed the family of four going on a 2 wheeler without any space to anyone. He wanted to transform the way we travel and today, we know what the answer is.  When compared to GE, HM, Honda, Hyundai etc etc, Tata Motors is a small automobile company. But, how could they change an idea of car?

The above two examples make us think. An ‘idea’ is the way you look at things. All of us have ideas, to change the way we live or to create something which can help solve an existing problem. However, the result of the idea is left to the individual who thinks through it. At times, an idea or thought process becomes bigger than the thinker himself.

Another example we can think of is of Mohammad Yunus of Grameen Bank. He started small around 25 years back to provide support to “Bottom of Pyramid” group to enable them to live for themselves. What we see today is a transformation in life-style. Today, many countries in the world would want to replicate the same model to improve living conditions in their region.

Idea is powerful and it can really create history. However, the main ingredient of the idea is the committment of the thinker. In our airplane example, probably Leonardo did not have access to all the information and material required to fly in his time, but when the time came, the idea was re-born. This is the power of an idea.

What VC’s look for in entrepreneurs is their committment to their idea. The idea might not create history, but will it solve a particular problem is what is evaluated.

The first thing you do when you have an idea, is to live it up!





HeadStart 2009

29 01 2008

HeadStart 2009 is going to be organized on the 9 / 10 /11 January 2009.  Details will be published at the earliest to provide you with ample time for the preparation.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, entrepreneur, student, industry leader or an academician, you need to be there. Please visit HeadStart for more updates and join Friends of KickStart mailing list to receive updates regularly.





Innovation Series #1

26 01 2008

Going forward, I would like to write on my learnings on Innovation, Strategy, interesting information on Entrepreneurship and introduce you to books and sites which can provide you with loads of information regarding these topics. I name this series as “Innovation Series #<No>” and you can filter all posts on this topic using tags – Innovation, Strategy.
Let me begin this week with some interesting information and links: Fidelity Ventures PresentationsVery interesting presentations available. Especially I like the presentation on “Positioning Technology Companies for Success” in which there is a very practical depiction of “Magic Quadrant” which is very important for any organization to showcase itself.
Building Teams is another good one where the speaker is concentrating on how do you build, recognize and manage teams which produce results.
The Joy of fund raising is a good point to start before you make your first investor pitch.
When you write your business plan, one key aspect which you cannot miss to pen down is “Exit Strategy”. You will need to have this section which brings clarity to yourself and your investors.
Managing Successful Exit gives you an insight into this.

State of Indian EntrepreneurshipSanjeev Bikchandani, on his blog wrote about State of Indian Entrepreneurship.
A nice read and this is what i have to say -” That was very thoughtful Sanjeev. Yes, as you mentioned there are various organizations who are promoting entrepreneurship. I just wanted to throw light on BarCamps which are fast becoming forums for like minded people which deserve a noble mentioning keeping the returns in mind. Likewise, we just concluded HeadStart yesterday which focused on showcasing entrepreneurial spirit and also brought investors, academicians, entrepreneurs together.Coming to the “slow down”, yes, we need to be worried, but IMHO a person who believes in his/her ideology and passion need not bother about it. However, one needs to assess risks and ensure there is always a risk mitigation plan in place. When you write your business plan, always has answer to the other side of your proposal – this would be a lot of help.”
Buy and Sell IdeasDid you know that there is a market for buying and selling ideas? Yes, there is. Visit Idea Pages and you will know. Idea Pages provides you a platform to list your idea and will link you and the party interested in your idea so that you can either sell/partnership with the prospect to bring your idea to life 🙂
Angel Group Financing has an interesting e-book on Venture Capital information for Entrepreneurs.
You will need to visit The Institute of Innovation and Information Productivity web site to get some interesting information on these topics. Read the IIIP Innovation confidence Index for 2007 which says Asia shows most enthusiasm for Innovation. Interesting data.
Blogs on EntrepreneurshipSramana Mitra, Paul Graham have interesting writings on Entrepreneurship.
Forbes Midas list has the list of worlds top 25 Venture Capitalist’s and there are 3 Indian names with Ram Shriram at number 3.
Refresh yourself and smile, after you see this comic strip on Web 2.0.