Sunday, August 24, 2008

SMEs Redefining Innovation

Innovation sometimes looks like, not invention , but using the existing ideas on new context. In fact, these is how a lot of our ancient wealth of knowledge can be redefined and brought to new context. Indian Entrepreneurs has shown how traditional Indian knowledge's and practices can be put into new context.

Recently in New Ventures Investor forum there was banana-leaf materials, light posts, and packaged Indian foods. These were some of the offerings on display by entrepreneur finalists. Only the banana leaves were fashioned into modern kitchen ware, the light posts were solar powered and the traditional Indian foods were harvested under an organic, fair trade system designed to exceed the most stringent international standards.

Span Pump’s water pump Witness the example of Span Pump, a company that adds a carousel or see-saw component to the technology of the many water pumps that dot India’s rural areas. These “Funflow” pumps build upon conventional technology to create a device that harnesses the energy of children at play to pump water for sanitation and agricultural purposes.

Span Pump is just one example of the modern-traditional innovations on display at the Forum. Others included bikes by Kabirdass which mimick the two-wheelers that are ubiquitous in cities like Bombay, but with electric, zero-emissions motors. Ankur Scientific presented power plants that utilize the jatropha weed, common in rural India, as a fuel source. Each SME taps into Indian traditions and practices of water management, agriculture, and other knowledges.

These companies are far from just feel-good projects - they are increasingly being backed by mainstream investors.

The challenge for India now is to support enterprises like these New Ventures finalists that are applying their business skills to connect traditional Indian knowledge and technologies with high-growth markets for sustainable goods. Investors are showing interest, and the ideas are everywhere amid India’s thriving entrepreneurial ism.

These entrepreneurs should be showcased and mentored properly in order to drive a new order of Indian entrepreneurial growth.

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