Global Themes

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What counts as innovation?

A few days ago I met Matthew Scott for lunch.  Matthew told me the story of “Mighty Light“.

MightyLight aims to bring “light” (literally) into the lives of millions who live in remote parts of the world and don’t stand a chance to get grid connectivity. It aims to do so by a clever product that is solar-charged and uses energy efficient white LED for lighting.

It got me thinking on how innovation in distribution channels is probably as critical as innovative product design in the context of domestic consumers in emerging markets (and particularly so in the case of BOP consumers…)

Now, if you are a purist – this may not count as true innovation.

Distribution channels (or even innovation in distribution channels) is not something that you can patent…and yet there is no doubt that products like these are capable of transforming the lives of millions through clever combination of technology and distribution which hitherto was not possible. 

In other words, they fit the criteria of high-impact and definition of a “breakthrough product” – and possibly innovation.

What do you think?

On a related note, I also spoke with Alok Singh, CEO of Novatium a few days ago – they too are doing something that is fairly unusual and exploting a business model around services that has not been tried in the PC industry before . Will it work? We dont know yet.

Is it an innovative approach? I certainly think it is.

Related Post: Has the $100 PC finally arrived?

October 1st, 2007 Posted by | Development Issues, Entrepreneurship, India, Tech & Innovation in Asia, Technology & Innovation | 6 comments


  1. “Now, if you are a purist – this may not count as true innovation.”

    Shantanu: Perhaps one might say it is not true innovation, if they have not really understood that innovation refers to both incremental and quantum changes, not just in products but in process too.

    Anything that creates incremental ‘value’, preferably on a sustainable basis is innovation, including innovation in channels.. 🙂

    Comment by Shefaly | October 1, 2007

  2. Given that many seek innovation in part as the basis for new business development, I think you have framed the question wrong. Changes in distribution or improvements in distribution channels are clearly the basis for a new business, Wal-mart and eBay being two outstanding examples. Perhaps the better question is whether something is the basis for a sustainable new business and not whether it is innovative.

    Comment by Robert Hacker | October 1, 2007

  3. […] What counts as innovation? […]

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  4. […] What counts as innovation? […]

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  5. Very thought-provoking post. I think something can be awarded the title “innovative” if it is both (not just one) of these two things – “new” and “good”. Entrepreneurs are often excited because they feel they’ve come up with something no one had ever thought of before – something “new”, and believe they are sitting on an “innovative” business idea. What they fail to assess is its sustainability – it’s new alright, but is it “good”? Entrepreneurs must be aware of this crucial balance and must test their ideas against both these criteria before approaching investors for funding. This will not only lend “intelligent creativity” to the entrepreneur’s thought-process, but also make the entrepreneur-VC industry more efficient and productive.

    Comment by Stern Fisher | July 16, 2008

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    Comment by Import from China | July 20, 2008

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