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Have you heard about a water ATM? How about a motorcycle helmet that keeps you cool in the height of summer? Are these things even possible?
The answer is a resounding "Yes!" They are innovative products that have been made in India, for India. Jaswinder Ahuja, Cadence India Managing Director, mentioned these and many more examples during his keynote talk at Aavaahn 2018, the 2nd National Institutes Students’ Meet held recently at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. The event featured many eminent personalities who came together to interact with young minds from India’s premier institutions around the themes of Make for India, Serve India, and Live for India.
Jaswinder drew on his vast experience of over 30 years in the Indian semiconductor industry, during which time he has mentored incubators and India-centric start-ups, to “tickle [the audience’s] imaginations” and share his perspective about the kinds of innovations that could build a better India.
Here are some highlights from his speech.
Jaswinder started by saying that an abundance of problems translates to an abundance of opportunities for innovation. But on the flip side, it also creates a conundrum – what is the problem to solve? Often, identifying the “right” problem is the hardest and most important part.
Once the problem has been identified, Jaswinder said that being an entrepreneur today has become easier than ever before. There are lower entry barriers. Take just one example – distribution. In the past, entrepreneurs were not able to scale or distribute their products across the length and breadth of the country. Today, thanks to Flipkart, Amazon and other platforms, entrepreneurs have option of building product lines in their backyards and distributing them to customers even in remote areas.
Jaswinder said that start-up innovation should not be only about profits, but should aim at solving real-world problems for society as well. The two can co-exist. Most global businesses focus their efforts on solving the needs of the richest two billion people of the world—the ones who can afford to buy products priced at $50 and above – so there is tremendous opportunity to address the needs of the remaining 5.6 billion people who need products or services priced at three or five cents.
Jaswinder mentioned two Indian marketing innovations from the past that addressed the bottom of the pyramid and turned out to be extremely profitable for their parent companies —the shampoo sachet (introduced by Hindustan Lever, now known as Unilever) and the “Chhota Recharge”, or "small recharge", offered by several telecom operators which allows pre-paid mobile users to add talk time to their phone plans at incremental rates as low as Rs 10. Both of these innovative solutions addressed the aspirations of the masses while also addressing their cash flow issues.
Jaswinder concluded by saying that the business leaders of tomorrow will be those who solve the real-world problems in a scalable, profitable, and sustainable way.