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Voyage DAffaires
Reverse innovation

Issue Date - 30/04/2012
If you happen to be the CEO of an Indian corporation, you might do well to pick up this book in order to understand the opportunities that your country has created and how the very existence of your company threatens competition in resource rich nations. But make no mistake, this book is really meant for a very limited set of readers – individuals in leadership roles at MNCs based in the rich world. For a very long time now, the spectacular rise of third world nations has rendered a lot of ‘management terminologies’ almost obsolete. How do you explain the phenomenon of Western nations importing certain innovations from countries like India and China (megamarkets with microconsumers), when the Harvards & Apples of this world have taught the exact opposite for years altogether? To be true, economic turmoil coupled with weak demand in their home markets has compelled companies to increasingly shifting their focus to developing markets. But there is hardly any organisation, which can boast of a concrete game plan for growing in countries like Bangladesh, India and China. Most of them are in the ‘market share race’ when they should actually be front runners in the ‘market development race’. Dr. Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Tremble, believe that there is a way they can do so. They call it Reverse Innovation. In fact, this concept might even become a source of competitive advantage for companies that can leverage it. Take Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) for instance. When the Indian automobile major arrived in US with its sturdy 35 horsepower tractors, Deere & Company (the dominant tractor brand) didn’t even feel mildly intimidated. After all, who would prefer a brand that sounded anything unlike America and sold low power red tractors. Instead of taking the competition head on, M&M decided to excel in a small agricultural niche. To offset the negativity that would be associated with a third world brand in those days, M&M forged relationships with small dealerships offering personalised services. The bet paid off. M&M grew by around 40% in US from 1999-2006 and is now the number one tractor maker globally (by units). This case (along with several others discussed in the book) in summary, represents Reverse Innovation. Based on consulting assignments with companies like GE and backed by decades of research, the authors bring forth quite convincingly how Reverse Innovation can be the paradigm for the future.

Amir Moin           

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