Sometime in Dec 08, I attended a session by Erehwon (www.erehwonconsulting.com) where they had presentations from a few Indian organizations that had generated break-through products - something rare for Indian organizations. What I appreciated was the visible shift in the deep rooted beliefs of the organizations. This shift had enabled them to create the break-through that they had. I share here briefly from that experience - more can be seen on the respective websites of the organizations.
Titan slim: You have heard of the Titan slim watch and so had I - and also advertisements claiming that it's the slimmest watch in the Universe. What I didn't know was that it to make it the slimmest was not just a gimmick but break-through engineering and product design! The story behind making it the slimmest is where the inspiration comes from.
Titan Slim is 3.5mm with a movement of 1.15mm with the nearest competitor in the World (the Swiss - Swatch!!) at 1.75mm movement and 3.95mm watch. Here our indigenous Titan innovators started the process as most other product creators do - go out and check with the best in the world. The Swiss watchmakers in this case. They checked for thin watch movements and if any of them could help make it thinner. Also they checked for the glass - which is the other part that contributes to the watch thickness. Interestingly, the Titan folks were told that it cant be done - both for the glass and for the watch movement. Typically, if 'they' cant do it - it cant be done and we settle for the second best. This is where the Titan R&D people took a different approach from most other product creators from India. For them it was a potential opportunity to be the best in the world. They got down to creating a whole new watch movement as well work out the new glass approach. And we have the Titan slim as a clear outcome that has demonstrated that even 'Indians' can do what the Swiss believed was not possible.
Kirloskar Compressor/pumps: Narmada dam and project has been long in the news. One of the linked projects - though not as popular is the Narmada canal project that probably is the longest canal (500+ kms) project. In the flow of the canal there is a segment where the whole canal needed to be lifted up due the peculiar topography.
Existing companies in the business quoted in the range of INR 25000 million for setting up pumping stations to move up over 440,000 litres of water every second. The government didn't have the budget to spend that kind of money and was looking for a break-through solution that would be 20% of the proposed costs (INR 5000 mill).
Kirloskar pumps (a company whose annual turnover had been till then in the range of INR 2000 mill), worked out a technology that was quite unique and different from traditional approach. They created new method of siphoning large amounts of water and in the process landed a technology that was well within the government budgets. They have delivered this pumping option at only INR 4440 mill. Of course one key fall out for them is that in just one year their annual turnover has increased ten fold. The technology is in much demand across the country.
Additional inputs at the session:
Difference between Creativity and Innovation: Creativity is about generating newer and more ideas whereas Innovation is about making the ideas work in reality.
Difference between piloting and prototyping: Pilot looks are failure or success of the idea whereas prototyping figures out ways to make the idea a success.
Additional product innovations to look at are: Tata Ace, Sukam large size inverters.