Engine of Innovation in India

I wanted to capture this quickly, I’ll come back to this topic with the figures, urls, links and demographic data etc, since yesterday I’d gone over to Result:McCann’s New Delhi office to say hello to old friends. There I met the current Sr VP and General Manager, India – Aditya Atri – I’d once worked with him on the Parker pen account about a decade ago.

As the course of the conversation shifted to the topic of innovation, Aditya gave me a quick overview of the real changes taking place here – he said, forget the brand names, the cars and the apparent wealth you see here in Delhi, it’s a major metro (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai are the 5 "major metros") and has always been wealthy. To get the real pulse of the paradigm shift in India go to the smaller towns, there is where you will see the unbridled optimism, the fire in the belly, the attitude shift that has taken place in India from our father’s generation to the current twenty somethings.

Where our generation, he said, (Gen X) figured we’d have to get extra qualifications or IT training to get a decent job, and our fathers were looking for the security of a civil service position with a lifelong pension, the twenty somethings today aren’t even worrying about getting a job, they *know* they will, they see it as their birthright, their approach is "what can I do to take advantage of these opportunities and maximize my income in the fastest, most efficient way"

It’s an attitude shift in outlook and approach, he said, was the real difference – there’s none of the scarcity mentality that hobbled the populace who remembered The Partition, Independence, rebuilding the country or emerging as a global marketplace – there is a sense of being players in the world, of the real innovation in India (more on innovation later). When resources are scarce or constrained due to environmental variability, people become more resourceful, more creative, have more "jugaad" – "make it happen" mentality – and that, he said, was the root of Indian innovation. How do we make do, how do we make it happen, within our constraints, and take ourselves to that level we see in this interconnected world.

I’ll come back to this post again and this topic, but this concept so excited me I wanted to at least attempt an articulation. I’m really energized by the sense of immanence that I feel here in New Delhi. Thank you, Aditya, for showing me the deeper patterns.

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3 Responses to Engine of Innovation in India

  1. says:

    Indian Capitalism Redux

    Niti Bahn has a nice piece over on Perspective, about changing attitudes in India about career aspirations.
    In “Engine of Innovation in India”, she contrasts the current generation of job-seekers with their Gen-X parents, and their more traditional grand

  2. Ralf Beuker says:

    Hi Niti,
    thanks for sharing your ethnographic research with us. While not directly related to this post you might be interested in the debate at brandchannel.com on (the absence of) indian brands (so far): http://www.brandchannel.com/forum.asp?bd_id=63
    I’m looking forward to reading your “perspective” 😉
    Take care, Ralf.

  3. Niti Bhan says:

    Ralf,
    Thanks for the pointer. I’ll take a look, but my guess is that they are probably correct in that there aren’t many global Indian brands, just local ones.
    Best,
    niti

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