Open Innovation Models Suitable For India

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on May 17, 2012

Over the years Indians are becoming aware of their capabilities ant potential and companies are looking for such individuals with high intellectual powers. Many MNCs have brought in the culture of open innovation in India. Companies like Xerox, P&G and General Mills are already into open innovation labs in India. Even Indian companies like Tata, Future group, M&M are not far behind and are involving employees, vendors and their customers in the co-creation process. Companies in west used to suffer from ‘Not Invented Here’ (NIH) syndrome and companies in India suffer from ‘Why Invent Here’ (WIH) syndrome.

So why Open innovation methodology in India has still not picked up? What are the problems and challenges faced by the Indian Innovators and what can be done so that more companies and individual innovators participate in the Open innovation models?


The central idea behind open innovation is that in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should instead buy or license processes or inventions from other companies. In addition, internal inventions not being used in a firm's business should be taken outside the company. In contrast, closed innovation refers to processes that limit the use of internal knowledge within a company and make little or no use of external knowledge.

Traditional Innovation Model

Traditionally, new business development processes and the marketing of new products took place within the firm boundaries. But since mobility and availability of highly educated people has increased over the years, a large amount of knowledge exists outside the research laboratories of large companies.

As a result, companies have started to look for other ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their innovation processes. For instance not only through active search for new technologies and ideas outside of the firm, but also through cooperation with suppliers and competitors, in order to create customer value.

Open Innovation can thus be described as: combining internal and external ideas as well as internal and external paths to market to advance the development of new technologies.

Open Innovation Model

The movement from internal R&D to external connect and develop opens the door for companies – large and small – to reach beyond their core competencies to remain competitive in an increasingly complex, uncertain and changing environment. Knowledge is the fundamental driver of sustainable competitive and collaborative advantage and this has now been recognized and understood by the industry well.

And what it has done is that it has influenced organizations to think that to strive in this competitive environment they need to find new ways of accessing knowledge from outside their organizations too. It is clear that successful innovation can only be achieved through collaborative combination which helps integrate knowledge inside and outside the organization.


So why in spite of having so much talent in India, we don’t get much innovative ideas. Yes, the talent exists but there has been a dearth of Innovations from the youth, and many of these begin their innovative activities later after graduation. Also there are common men who innovate but are not visible.

They basically lack funds and other assistance which would enable them to be visible and carry their innovations to the market and for people who belonged to R&D centre the funding is provided to some extent by the government but mostly in the research area and from which the common man had no luxury. I believe India’s policies and education system supports traditional linear process of innovation. Out of the Box thinking seems to be non-existent and even discouraged in Indian education system, be it engineering, medicine or any graduation course.

People believe that more education will automatically lead to the development of new products and commercialization of those products. Also, during my experience at work, I have found my colleagues hesitant to share details about their ideas as they feared that someone might grab undue credit for his/her ideas. It may be because of the lack of trust in their sub-ordinates, as well people up the hierarchy. If only we can collaborate this and provide incentives for fresh ideas we can help reduce that insecurity level among the employees in the organization.

So I feel the barriers to innovation in India can be summed up as,

Solutions and Limitations

Various models have been used by companies all over the world for Open Innovation.

NineSigma – It’s mission is to work for its clients to source innovative ideas, technologies, from best innovators around the world and provide them quickly and effectively to the organization.

Innocentive – A company that created a vast network of problem solvers around the world specialized in different industries and having business acumen. Each innovation challenge has a submission deadline and is assigned a cash prize. Registered users can submit the solutions and this and can be reviewed by the seeker organization and it can award the innovator if the idea is selected for implementation

Yourencore – A network of retired scientists and engineers providing clients with proven experience to help in the innovation process at companies.

Now, will such models work in India? The answer is ‘YES’. Some organizations have already tied up with academic institutions for getting innovative ideas. Others have implemented a network similar to Innocentive comprising of such Innovators all over India.

Thinkchangeindia - ThinkChange India is a leading source of information on social innovation and social entrepreneurship in India. People can post about the new innovation happening in India. They can also post about any query and its talent team of editors and bloggers can reply to those queries on the forum.

TePP – Technopreneur Promotion Program – It’s an initiative by DSIR, Govt. of India. TePP supports innovators right up to the point of starting a new venture. TePP supports innovators right up to the point of starting a new venture. Many individuals and startups have utilized TePP funds to patent their innovations and also for customer and market validation. Attempts are being made to cast the net wider capturing products in bio-tech, medicine and surgery and so on.

TePP funds individual innovators as opposed to other national programs which fund researchers affiliated to recognized institutions Basically The potential innovators should write down the idea and explain how it would be developed into a prototype and if it’s a good idea, Tepp would fund it. – It works on the similar pattern as Innocentive. It is based in Bangalore and it basically enables enterprises when they need to collaborate to innovate, with employees, customers, research vendors, academia or a global pool of talent. Innovation seekers who are looking for solutions can post their problems and Ideaken can look for the ideas from the Innovation solvers.

Ideaken created a campaign for Innovation in Sanitation technology in India. They used the method of Open Innovation using their platform. They were seeking sanitation system design, suitable for mass rural installation and usage. This was launched on 19th November, 2010, ‘World Toilet Day’. Some of the needs of this project were

  • Suit diverse environmental conditions
  • Low Maintenance treatment of waste
  • Less than 1.5 litres of water per use
  • Total cost per unit – 150 euros or less
  • Pipes that reduce clogging
  • Local availability of materials

At the end of 3 months, innovators from 26 countries participated. 109 innovators opted to attempt this challenge. There were 5 independent reviewers from reputed organizations. There were 13 finalists and rewards were given to 3 finalists and prize money of 10000 Euros. The work on the implementation has begun. This is what a collaborative innovation can do.

So measures like those taken outside India are now being taken in India as well. People need to be made aware of such platforms where they can share their ideas and contribute to the Open Innovation model development in India. Similarly, I feel academic institutions can alter their course curriculum and encourage companies to involve students by providing them their companies problems and look for innovative ideas from the students.

Such programs are being carried out by companies at the graduation course, so why not carry out such programs at the under graduate level as well. Also, the educational institutions should include corporate projects in their course curriculum and not just have secondary research projects, which most of the educational institutions in India currently have.


Open Innovation models using internet are gaining popularity in India. What needs to be done further is, communicate about this platform to more innovators and problem solvers all over India. Also, companies should start designing programmes encouraging college students at the undergraduate level to participate in solving their business challenges. Organizations can also provide funds to the most innovative ideas, which will further motivate individual innovators to work towards developing a prototype based on their ideas.

This article has been authored by Pranav Saraswat & Shweta Gupta from NMIMS.


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