India on the Innovation Roadmap
Almost a year ago I did a story on how India is moving up the value chain and how companies like Copal Partners are literally marketing the indigenous brain in Wall Street. The story was aptly titled “Gurgaon Bheja now served fresh in Wall Street”. With mundane activities on its way out to countries like Indonesia and other cheaper hubs India is becoming the hub of global innovation. Not many know that Google India is responsible for some of the best apps in Google Labs. Or that India today has the 2nd biggest VAS market in mobility without even having wireless broadband! A perfect example of even the minimalist soil is enough to nurture innovation in India.
This week I had an opportunity to meet a very interesting person driving innovation in his own way Mr.Ramesh Loganathan. Ramesh is the managing director of Progress Software India and also the person responsible for driving and nurturing innovation through bar camps. Having witnessed the Bar Camp movement in and around Delhi that is a story in itself about how beautifully innovation gets channelized and promoted through these camps.
Progress Software, the company responsible for the T+2 trading cycle in stock exchange (in good old days it took almost 5 days for transactions to reflect) and RTGS of RBI (instant money transfer between banks) which has enabled most of the internet banking operations of India, started its development centre in Hyderabad. Noteworthy is its Progress’s largest centre outside USA. So why Hyderabad or India as the city or country of choice? There are many other cheaper places like Malayasia, Indonesia. There is also China where Progress could get much cheaper manpower. In terms of talent there is Ukraine and pockets in Russia which are far cheaper than India and perhaps even better talented. So what makes India the destination of choice?
India on innovation map
The answer lies in a combination of factors. There is an internal domestic market to be tapped alongwith driving exports. There is also a learning curve that’s perhaps totally unique to India, not even China has it. There is stability. While our truant politicians play politics on caste, color, creed and even state now, but the stability factor is as strong as ever. We have a vibrant democracy and one that is more tech savvy than even USA (remember electronic voting). There is a huge talent pool in terms of language and technical skills. Says Ramesh “The world class pool of talent in India has made a compelling reason for us to have the largest development centre outside US.”
What the world thinks
While generations of India grew up believing everything that was wrong was India and how its only contribution to the world was the invention of zero, the tables have clearly turned. The foreign media pessimism hasn’t changed altogether though. A leading weekly recently said Indians aren’t really built either culturally or structurally to ooze innovation. It went on to add how Indian companies simply lacked the business knowledge to push innovation and everything that was wrong with India.
The India Picture
That’s clearly one side of the story. Some of the best innovations in recent times have come from India. Take the case of tech giants like Google and Microsoft. Google Finance is an Indian creation and so are several other best sellers in Google Labs. Microsoft India Labs has been active with several indigenous innovations like the Split Screen PC (several mice and keyboards can be attached to single PC). Can anybody answer without even wireless broadband India has the second biggest Mobile VAS market? If that isn’t innovation than what is innovation?
According to a Research report that profiles 203 MNC companies says “India as a country has been able to attract a number of global players in software. Microsoft has built its largest development centre outside the U.S. in Hyderabad city of India, almost 20% of the development activities of SAP are done in India, the Bangalore development centre of Philips contributes in every product of the company that has software in it. Hewlett Packard is conducting all its high level research on futuristic technologies for emerging markets in India.”
The Bangalore Case
Take the Bangalore case for instance. With almost 5500 patents filed from Bangalore it is the fourth-largest technology cluster in the world. And these patents aren’t just from the Research and Development wings of Multinational corporations. They are from the small and medium sized startups and other smaller companies. Companies who have a contribution in domestic and export market too. Bangalore may have bad roads, the air quality needs urgent help and many such improvements. But that hasn’t deterred innovation.
The Last Word
For every Progress Software that starts a development centre in India, it’s a step forward in the positive direction. We have given mathematics, the zero and much more to the world. It’s time our technology hubs churn our innovations for the rest of the world. Our cities maybe bad, infrastructure missing yet India is delivering. The beauty of India is that given even the minimalist soil it is enough to nurture talent and innovation in India.
(Puneet Mehrotra writes on technology www.thebusinessedition.com)