India confuses improvisation with innovation, says Doval

India confuses improvisation with innovation, says Doval
Legendary innovator Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” While India has been particularly active in the startup space, innovation is still a distant reality. 

Shaurya Doval, Managing Director, Zeus Caps, and Director, India Foundation, told Deccan Herald, “India has it confused when it comes to innovation. As a country, most of our solutions are ‘jugaad’ (colloquial for simple work-around). We don't really have innovation. Improvisation is what we have mostly done.”

While problems are aplenty, solutions often only solve them to an extent, and the problems continue to persist as half-solved.

“When you start something and it runs into complications, it tends to be treated as a dead-end...So the problem is not solved in total,” he said. “India is fixated on tweaking the edges, making things easier and more cost-effective, even if the problem is not fully solved.”

Mobile phones innovated
Using technology to create a solution that enables faster delivery of consumables does not really solve a problem. It is an improvement on the supply chain efficiency. Citing this example, he said, “I would categorise something like that as improvisation. Innovation is something that solves a fundamental problem. Enabling the adoption of mobile phones in India, was in a way innovation. It solved a lot of communication problems in the country. Now every man is connected, and we didn’t have that, say 10-15 years ago,” he added.

While he goes on to say that innovation in the true sense of it has happened in the areas of space programmes and biotechnology, the brick and mortar space still remains unsophisticated. He says, “Energy is a crisis the world over. There is huge scope for innovation. Instead of focusing on how to make it cheaper, how about if we shift focus to wider coverage and increased efficiency? That would solve a real problem.” 

Investors who are the facilitators of innovation, he believes, have come a long way to realise that “by investing in improvisation technology, we run into problems very quickly in the lifecycle”. This means that investors will have to assume a greater role.  “But innovation requires an entire ecosystem, and only the government can facilitate the creation the of such clusters,” Doval said.

Doval was a one of the distinguished speakers at the first ‘India Conference on Innovation, Intellectual Property and Competition’ organised by IIMB on Monday. The two-day event saw eminent speakers in IIMB’s own Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Harvard University Professor Tarun Khanna, who is also Chairman, Expert Committee on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Niti Aayog, among others.

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