Posts Tagged ‘india’
Invented by Professor Josh Silver, the Adspecs are the first (and currently only) available self-adjustable glasses that allow the user to tune their glasses to their eyes. To change the power of the lens, the user turns the wheels on the syringes on the arms to pump more or less silicone oil into the lenses (which are simply two flexible membranes, protected by a hard plastic layer), changing their shape. When done, the user simply tightens the screws on each side of the frame and cuts off the syringes and tubing – transforming the Adspecs into a normal pair of glasses in a few minutes! This is great for countries with not enough optometrists. Prof Silver’s goal is for Adspecs to reach a billion of the world’s poorest people by 2020.
The Asian Development Bank has commissioned a study on what the possible trajectory that India might take if it achieves true affluence in thirty years India 2039: An affluent society in one generation. Download it here.
How does India avoid falling into the middle income trap, where Malaysia, Thailand and other previous roaring economies are still in? How does India sustain growth near 10% over 30 years, putting in place policies that span the lifetime of several governments? How does India move into making cities their engine of growth, instead of bleeding them to sustain the countryside? And so on.. lots of good questions that have been asked on the sustainability of India’s growth, now all in one report.
Edward Glaeser shares his thoughts on Indian megacities here and here. Prof Glaeser is one of the most brilliant people I’ve had the opportunity to meet. Looking forward to his upcoming book on cities.
I find Prof Glaeser’s observation that entrepreneurship is the single most defining characteristic of Mumbai most interesting. Haven’t been able to delve further into the subject, but wonder if there are insightful parallels to be drawn between Mumbai’s future and the historical development of Wenzhou/Zhejiang which Huang Yasheng discusses in his book, Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics. Any thoughts?
There are hundreds of such farmer-innovators who have not gotten their due. Khobragade is now getting an Innovation Fellowship from India’s National Innovation Foundation (NIF), but thanks to the limited resources at the disposal of the NIF, his story is too common.
For the last nine years, the resources of the NIF remained frozen at about $350,000 USD per annum, a fraction of total funds required. SRISTI, an Indian NGO that helps grassroots inventors, has managed without any external support for the last three years. No major breakthrough is expected until policy makers realize that these innovators deserve better. It’s not just about moving them into houses with functioning toilets — these budgetary restrictions mean hundreds, maybe thousands, of other innovations will go unheralded.
The NIF has scouted over 100,000 ideas, both innovations and traditional knowledge, through the voluntary Honey Bee Network. HBN is a voluntary network set up more than twenty years ago which essentially mimics the behavior of honey bees as a metaphor in innovation. All the knowledge and new ideas collected are “cross-pollinated” with other communities and individuals a thousand miles away. HBN believes in protecting the knowledge rights of every knowledge-producer; nobody involved with HBN can earn personal income based on community knowledge unless that income is shared with the community in an explicit, transparent way as explained in our guidelines. Any third party wealth, say by a company which uses knowledge or innovations in HBN, also has to be shared in a fair and just manner. Although the NIF has been able to support only a few of the 100,000 ideas they have uncovered through the network, HBN’s size shows just how much grassroots genius is being left on the table.
The traditional private sector has also fallen short when it comes to supporting these entrepreneurs. In this “decade of derivatives” it became harder for small start-ups to attract investment capital. In India, most venture capital firms were investing in the equity of listed companies. Angel fund networks would wait till an innovator had developed a business plan, put together a team, and demonstrated results. Why would that innovator then need an angel fund?
And yet, in the meantime, technologists, entrepreneurs, and innovators are finding ways to work around the institutional barriers. For instance, a web portal (techpedia.sristi.org) being set up by SRISTI with the help of the Computer Society of India and TEPP of DSIR should improve the situation (see sristi.org/anilg for details) by pooling 600,000 projects done by technology students in India every year. If even one percent of these become legitimate new products, we will get 6,000 new products every year.
But we could be doing so much more. I wish 10 percent of the stimulus funds for reviving our economies were being spent on the ideas and innovations of young people to generate innovation-based enterprises. We have to find more ways to link innovation with investment with enterprise — that’s the golden triangle for grassroots creativity.
Grassroots innovations can provide a new ray of hope, provided we help them grow. Outside of India’s major cities, unsung heroes of the country are solving, or trying to solve, local problems in spite of the structures that have bypassed them so far. Creativity, compassion and collaboration are the key characteristics of these voices from grassroots. Let us listen to them and resonate with them.
Remember: minds on the margins are not marginal minds.
Anil Gupta is Executive Vice Chair, National Innovation Foundation and Professor, Indian Institute of Management.
Finally got around to doing a quick summary of my takeaways for Emtech India 2009. I’ve mentioned before that my primary aim, which is also the aim of Emtech India, is to see what disruptive innovations will come from India, specifically Bottom of the Pyramid technologies. If India gets this right, it will unlock a lot of potential of its rural areas and slums.
What I came away with was there was plenty of innovation from the bottom of the pyramid. This series of Discovery Channel “My Technology” commercials shows it amply.
But what also came up in the conference was a certain sense of stuckness and tiredness, a repetition of what has been heard (like one laptop per child). What’s holding bottom of the pyramid developments back? I can certainly sense a lack of infrastructure to commercialise the innovations arising from the people living in the bottom of the pyramid, and a lack of infrastructure or incentives to scale it for mass production. mChek is the most promising app I came across, but is that it? Or was it Emtech India 2009 that did not do justice to this rich topic? I told the organisers that the discussions were not deep enough, plenty of banalities and corporate spiel I can put up with, but I want to hear business cases on what worked, what didn’t work. Having the MIT name will pull people to attend once, but it had better be good for the second or third round. I summed up some of my thoughts in a quick and dirty .ppt posted on slideshare below.The raw notes are on ipaper here.
I enjoyed interacting with the many MIT alumnis at the conference. So many MIT/IIT alums who also went to Sloan, Chicago, Stanford MBA schools, India’s elite brains are incredible. There is so much promise.
Some random thoughts on emerging Asia’s middle classes, which under the Chasm model become crucial sources of demand. Adeline dug up the Asian Development Bank’s report on the myth of Asia’s decoupling.
Remember I mentioned that G3 accounted for some 60+% of final demand? Well, China was only 6.4% of final demand, about a tenth. Meaning that while emerging Asia trades much among ourselves, it is because of MNC supply chains and not because we are developing each other’s markets. This crash will probably force us to ‘get religion’. hah hah.
Having said that, the Economist in a recent special talked much about the emerging markets’ middle classes, and I’ve been digging up McKinsey’s reports on China and India‘s middle classes and consumers. There are some surprising points like how India is closer to the USA and Japan in terms of private consumption, and India may be a better consumer play than China is.
From Bates 141, an excellent overview of change in what they call the emerging Asias (plural). A thoughtful snapshot of cultural and consumer changes through a non-monolithic Asia. Useful as signposts for the emerging Menagerie.
But that is only one part of the four sub-economies. There’s the crucial rural market that we don’t really know how to approach. I’m hoping to get some light from that when I fly to New Delhi this weekend for next Monday and Tuesday’s MIT-organized EmTech conference, with a focus on Bottom of the Pyramid models and technologies.
Ultimately, Singapore is not a product play, it is a service play. What are the BOP services we can deliver that India and China cannot deliver to their people? Worth considering.
Hats off to T Barnett’s blog. The Atlantic has an interview with Gao Xiqing, the man who oversees $200 bil of China’s $2 trillion dollar holdings. Titled “Be Nice to the Countries that Lend you money”, worth a read on the thinking of China’s money overlords of the US. And another NYT article on India going into recession, and pointedly India’s weakness as a body shop for back offices, no innovative strengths yet at the front office, are laid open in this recession. Barnett sums it up well, there is no independent rise of the rest without the West. My view is that China’s rapid growing up (you can’t rely so much on the USA for growth, it’s obvious) will alter the balance. This won’t happen quickly, past this next recession, but faster than we think. Worth observing.
Foreign Affairs came up with their analysis of the Great Crash of 2008. I can see a few thesis being written around this and careers being molded. There’s nothing that much new in their analysis of the events. But there’s something that bugs me, and I would like to throw it out in the open and straighten the kinks out in the thinking somehow … because if you remember, the fundamental question for me is what is the nature of future demand? and from that will spring the other possible frameworks of future trade, human capital flow, etc…
Remember the first video was ‘Rise of the Rest’? But as Thomas Barnett pointed out, there is no such thing as an independent ‘Rise of the Rest’. China and India’s rise predicated on exports to the G3, especially USA. USA consumption is 70% consumer based, and for the past 10+ years with easy credit, mortage loans, credit card borrowings based on the inflated values of those houses … and it all comes crashing down, that has vanished. Juan Enriquez’s video at Poptech pointed out that with all the off balance payments to Social Security, two wars etc the US govt’s revenue would be exceeded by mandated payments by 2030, and by borrowing another trillion dollars for the crash, that day of reckoning has been brought forward by 15 years to 2015. That’s not very far away.
My question is, “Is this cyclical or structural?” If it’s cyclical, it’ll be back to normal after 3 years of digesting. China will lend the USA money in the hope the whole system continues and US demand continues to fuel China’s rise. If it’s structural, and US demand fundamentally changes nature, no more consumer led behavior, then what happens to China, India etc?
Michael Porter argues that as long as the USA maintains its core lead over six areas (entrepreneurship, VC market etc), it will continue to be a source of growth. And I see comments from R Florida’s Creative Class blog that employment data shows non-creative class jobs being cut drastically, while so far creative class jobs are largely unaffected. Is the creative class enough to fuel growth?
So right now where I am is I don’t have a handle on how it might branch out here, consumer led consumption comes back? entrepreneurship+technology led growth continues? Just some thoughts rattling around.
Call centers in India are badly hit with cancelled contracts. Exports from China have plummeted. It is wishful thinking that a rise of China and India will allow Asia to decouple from the G3, as you can see below, about 61% of Asia’s exports are eventually consumed in the G3 (figure from Asian Development Bank).
A glance at the Singapore Business Times shows how Japan’s exports to China plunged 25% due to drop in demand from the US and Europe. There wasn’t really that much real domestic demand in China for Japanese goods after all. Intra-Asian trade did rapidly expand in the past few years, but it didn’t create an autonomous Asian market. It was more really centered around China as the world’s assembly floor, exporting to the G3.
So talk on decoupling is premature today, but maybe China can help Asia decouple from the US in the medium future?
Good question to ask is what is the nature of future China and India demand?
Is it mainly public investment driven (hence infrastructure)? What are the different business opportunities opening up for consumer demand centered in the cities (tier 1, tier 2) versus the no-frills consumer demand centered in the tier 3 cities and townships? Which opportunities play to Singapore’s strengths?
For now, here’s a recent Times article “Wanted: A New Miracle” on the path a post-American China can take. Namely, boost its services sector, create a social security net, become a technological power … in other words, like Japan. Interesting… I think the path described is targeted at tier 1, 2 cities. It would be interesting to hear what a tier 3 + township path would be like. More thoughts and updates to come on this …