I prefer media interviews to media reviews for the simple reason that an interview is a dialogue; a review is a monologue. As my book, Innovation Stories from India Inc: Their Story in Their Words, Bloomsbury India, July 2017 builds a readership, let me clear up the misconceptions that have appeared in some media reviews.
The stories are too short.
There are 23 stories in the book with an average length of about 2100 words -- the size of a typical business magazine article. The idea was to cover a cross-section of companies -- start-ups, midsized and large companies, MNCs, and conglomerates -- without being boring.
The first-person format is generous to CEOs and does not evaluate their claims.
The book is a collection of stories structured in two parts: an introduction by me covering the history and financials of a company; and a first-person account by its leader describing its innovation journey. The first-person accounts were crafted from personal interviews and supplementary research to check facts and fill gaps in the narrative. This not only makes the stories authentic but also preserves the distinctive voice of individual CEOs. And because the stories are in first-person, every CEO was careful about their claims.
You have tiptoed around the Ratan Tata – Cyrus Mistry boardroom conflict.
I met Ratan Tata to get his perspective on innovation in Indian industry based on his 20 years as the head of India’s largest business group. Why would I ruin the story by opining on a boardroom battle? Everyone agrees that Ratan Tata provides unique insights in the book.
The book covers old ground when talking about innovations like the low cost refrigerator from Godrej or the low cost ECG from GE.
This criticism highlights a common confusion about innovation. Innovation is not limited to making new products. Innovation also covers processes and business models that result in significant and measurable gains.
The Godrej story, for example, is certainly not intended to be a laundry list of innovative products they have produced over the years. The story describes how the group is using Economic Value Added as a metric and the Theory of Constraints as a process to achieve desired objectives and deliver superior returns. One example of this is the zero or negative working capital at the Godrej consumer products business. That’s innovation.
When Nestle India applies the learning from its Maggi crisis to crunch cycle times and produce more products faster than at any time in its 100-year history in India, that’s innovation.
When Narayana Hospitals cuts costs and creates capacity to pay so that heart surgery becomes affordable, that’s innovation. That’s why the Wall Street Journal calls Dr Devi Shetty, the founder of Narayana, the ‘Henry Ford of heart surgery’.
The book tells these stories and more.
Some companies seem too small or too new to be in the book.
The book covers companies from start-ups to conglomerates, and so start-ups such as Paytm and Quintillion Media (publisher of The Quint) are juxtaposed with established giants. But these companies are exciting work-in-progress run by founders with a track record and they have interesting stories to tell.
Another small company, brand consultancy Chlorophyll, is in the book because it is one of the rare advertising and branding companies in India that are still independent – most others have foreign principals. Chlorophyll is in the book on merit; it has helped create or modify over 200 brands. I worked with Chlorophyll on a project and use that experience to describe the behind-the-scenes process of how a brand is created.
In the Tata Motors story, you ignore their new IMPACT design approach.
Um, the Impact design approach is for the Tata Motors passenger cars. My story is about their commercial vehicles business!