For successful innovation, one has to move from idea to impact. The journey from mind to marketplace is an arduous process. But after entering marketplace, to remain successful in business over a long period is also challenging.
First consider the success rate of any idea into a success. An interesting analysis has been done by Stephen and Burley in 1997 for Industrial Research Institute. It lists out the significant odds that face the would be innovators by analysing consistent data from new product development, potential activity and venture capital experience.
They show that there is a universal curve, which illustrates the number of substantial new product ideas surviving between each stage of the new product development process. It shows that out of 3000 raw ideas (hand written), 300 are submitted, which lead to around 125 small projects, further leading to 9 significant developments, 4 major developments, 1.7 launches and 1 success.
But how long will the small percentage, who enter the marketplace finally remain successful? A study by McKinsey shows that the average life span of companies listed in Standard & Poor’s 500 was 61 years in 1958. Today, it is less than 18 years. Only 10.4% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 have remained on the list during the 64 years since in 2019.
I propose in this paper a new framework, which, if used proactively, can potentially increase, first, the chance of converting an idea into a business, and then remaining a successful business for a prolonged period.
- ASSURED Innovation Framework
I along with my coauthor Ravi Pandit wrote a book, ‘From Leapfrogging to Pole-vaulting: Creating the Magic of Radical yet Sustainable Transformation’ in 2019, which won the Tata Literature Live! Business Book Award in the same year.
In the book, we emphasised the shift from reactive leapfrogging to proactive pole-vaulting through radical and sustainable transformation of an enterprise. In order to assure success, we proposed using the ASSURED Innovation framework.
ASSURED comprises 7 important attributes, namely, being affordable, scalable, sustainable, universal , rapid , excellent and distinctive.
An affordable solution creates access for everyone across the economic pyramid. Affordability is achieved by implementing extremely efficient operation, production and distribution systems.Cost of customer acquisition has to be low. Lowest cost of fixed and operating are as important as business model innovations such as ‘pay per use’, or work flow, or system delivery innovations.
Scaling the solution to largest number of addressable beneficiaries makes the largest impact. In depth understanding of the market addressability is as important as identification of Blue Ocean ( unexplored and vast market place for the offering with the entry barriers).
The solutions have to be environmentally sustainable, economically feasible (with robust business and revenue models), socially acceptable and also adaptable to sudden or radical policy changes. Proactive planning for obsolescence of skills, capabilities and processes by being agile and nimble is important. Good governance is essential for sustainability. PESTEL analysis, which focuses on Political, Economic, Social, Technological factors and also includes additional assessment of the Environmental and Legal factors that can impact a business, is fundamentally important.
Universal means user-friendly, simple and maintenance free products and services. Standardisation of design, supplies, inputs, processes, customer needs, quality of supplies and resources contribute towards universality . All the principles of universal design such as flexibility, simplicity, minimal inconvenience, tolerance for error and equitable use are as important as the design thinking.
The journey from mind to marketplace has to be rapid , and so is the rapid adaptability to changing market conditions after entry into market. This speed to market, speed of competitive response to a competitor, decision making speed, flexible organisational processes that impact decision-making speed, all these are important.
The endeavour has to be to use the state of the art technological or novel non-technological solutions. But that is not enough. We need business excellence, which is about developing and strengthening the management systems for achieving excellence in everything that an organisation does, including leadership, strategy, customer focus, information management, people and processes.
Innovation and not imitation is the key. There is no use creating ‘me too’ products
and services. Solutions must be protected by robust intellectual property portfolio. Raising entry barriers for the competitors, primarily through self-destruction , distinctive brand creation, clear differentiation, creating products with low replicability are the keys to success.
Three important points about the factors in the ASSURED framework. First, all the seven factors are dependent on each other. Better affordability can lead to bigger scalability. Second, the factors are time variant. For instance, failing to change with changing environmental regulations can affect sustainability. Third, either fully quantitative, semi quantitative or qualitative value can be attached to all the seven factors. Weightage given to each factor depends upon the type of business.
- Failure assured if ASSURED test fails
‘Failure is the best teacher’ is not just a maxim. To understand the efficacy of the ASSURED model, we have selected a few innovations that shook the imagination of the world. Each of the current successes, from Apple to Amazon, from Facebook to Google, from Samsung to Toyota, satisfies the requirements of the ASSURED framework. The common features among failures are common too—failure is assured in the long run if the innovation fails the ASSURED test at any point along its journey.
Analysis within the ASSURED framework shows that their successful run lasted as long as they passed the ASSURED test, but the moment they failed in any aspect of the ASSURED framework, they failed as companies too.
Kodak ruled the world. It did not remain ‘distinctive’ and ‘user-friendly’, when the digital camera arrived. The same was the case with Polaroid, the leaders in instant photography.
Borders was leading international book retailer. Doesn’t exist today. It failed to adapt to the digital and online books age, ignored consumer preferences, and was soon failed the D and U test by not remaining ‘distinctive’ and ‘user-friendly’.
Israeli EV startup, Better Place was posed as rival to Tesla at one point but failed due to non-viable business model, the S factor.
After 70 years of being in the business, Atlas Cycles was shut down. At the time of business failure Atlas Cycles failed to meet most of the ASSURED parameters.
Zebpay, a leading cryptocurrency trading platform in India had to shut down due to regulatory non-compliance, the S factor.
These were all companies with great ‘performance’ and they failed the ASSURED test.
Let us look at a case, where a great ‘promise’ was not fulfilled because ASSURED test could not be met.
Tata Nano was conceived as People’s car. It was Affordable, the price at the announcement being Just equivalent to at today’s exchange rate, just USD 1500. It was Excellent in terms of technology, since over 70 patents covered its remarkable innovations. It was Distinctive in many ways.
However, its marketing went awry. Tata Nano represented ‘affordable excellence’, but while marketing, affordability was put at the front-end, which automatically translated to cheap, and the aspirational young generation did not want a cheap car. So the U part failed. And obviously then scale and sustainability could not be achieved.
In all these cases the sustained success was not assured, because they did not follow the path of ASSURED innovation!
- Contemporary Indian ASSURED Innovation Cases
We give here three illustrative contemporary Indian examples, first is a growing startup, second is a startup turned into a successful company, third, a new technology led new company that became successful rapidly and massively.
4.1 Dozee By Shell Technologies: A Growing Startup
It is estimated that India has only 2 million hospital beds and 0.12 million ICU beds. What’s worse, most of the ICU beds are concentrated in the private sector, with substantial variation in available resources across states. While this presented a healthcare problem even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become even more critical in 2020.
The lack of ICU beds was a major concern even before the pandemic. Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award (AMIIA) winner for 2020 – Dozee has the potential to partly address this bleak situation.
Dozee is a is continuous, contact-free vitals monitor with remote monitoring capabilities and alert system that converts any bed into a step-down ICU in less than 2 minutes.
In COVID times, 5000 beds were enabled with health monitoring, helping patients across India in 220 hospitals so far.
Let’s view it in the ASSURED framework.
A: It is Priced at 2 USD per day, which is about 1/10th of the cost of conventional alternatives.
S: 75000 patients have been monitored so far
S: Aims to install 50,000 ICU beds across India in the next 6 months and reach one million in the next 3 years. Currently 1400 out of 5000 beds have been supported by CSR funds so far. The demand in public hospitals is large but the slow purchase procedures there are slowing down the scale up.
U: User has to put device under the mattress. Vital parameters are collected automatically. Setting up Dozee requires minimal technical expertise and it can be used in home settings.
R: Can convert any bed into step-down ICU in just 2 minutes
E: Uses sophisticated Ballistocardiograph technology. Medical-grade accuracy of 98.4%contact-free vitals monitor with remote monitoring capabilities. The device also lets clinicians set thresholds to trigger alerts for body vitals.Incorporated AI technology brings in predictive capability.
D: Contact-free vitals monitor with remote monitoring capabilities. Dozee monitors critical parameters so reliably that one nurse can handle 100 patients, ten folds more than the normal.
4.2 Jio: A Successful Enterprise
Jio was launched in 2016 and it has become world’s 2nd largest mobile data carrier in less than 5 years. Today about 425 million Indians enjoy the benefits of free voice calling and extremely affordable highspeed 4G internet using their 4G LTE technology. Last year, Jio platform raised $ 15 Billion from leading global investors. business in just two months, while in 2019 the entire Indian startup ecosystem raised $12.7 Billion.
Let us view Jio in the ASSURED framework
A: Jio offers free voice calling for life. Jio also did away with national ‘roaming charges’, marking the first time in India’s history that the length and breadth of the nation are truly connected.
S: World’s largest all-IP network. Acquired 100 million subscribers in just 170 days. Currently about 425 million subscribers
S: Jio’s network is uniquely positioned to quickly and seamlessly upgrade from 4G to 5G. Recently, Jio has received the necessary regulatory approvals as well as trial spectrum for initiating 5G field-trials. The entire 5G Standalone Network has been installed in Jio data centres across the nation and trial sites in Navi Mumbai. To develop the end-to-end 5G ecosystem , Jio is now working with leading global partners to develop a full range of 5G-capable devices. The Jio 5G technology is well positioned to create compelling applications for consumers and enterprises spanning Healthcare, Education, Entertainment, Retail and other key verticals of the economy
U: Simple, customer friendly plans – pay for one service. ‘Ecosystem of entertainment, payment and other services
R: Jio become number one player in India in less than 5 years deployed through technological, product and business model innovations. Other equally important infrastructure development included 250,000 route kilometres of fibre optic cables laid, done using high-tech machines that laid the fibre deep underground with minimal surface disturbance just by drilling two holes.
E: One of the most important innovations at Jio was its configuration- Jio’s greenfield LTE network is the first countrywide deployment of VoLTE or voice over LTE in India. It provides 15-20 MBPS speed that enables high definition voice calls. Jio deployed microcells technology for enhancing connectivity
D: Fast-tracked Aadhaar-based eKYC (Know Your Customer) which allowed SIM activation in 5 minutes instead of a few days
- ASSURED Use Cases in Innovation Ecosystem
“ASSURED Total Innovation” model has been successfully implemented by various government agencies and private entities in India. Central Government’s Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation adopted it for evaluation of innovations in the drinking water sector. Ministry of skill development used it for National Entrepreneurship Awards (NEA). National laboratories in CSIR are using it for selecting, monitoring and funding projects research projects.
JSW and The Times of India jointly leveraged it for Earth Care Awards (ECAs). Marico Innovation Foundation (MIF) used the framework for the MIF awards.ISC-FICCI Sanitation Awards are being given by initial scrutiny through ASSURED framework.
As regards the startups, the framework is being incorporated by Maharashtra State Innovation Society for selecting startup week awardees. Venture Centre in Pune, which won the inaugural best incubator award at the hands of the President of India is using it for evaluating and monitoring some of the incubators. JioGenNext, a leading corporate accelerator is using it for selecting startups.
In the corporate world some companies, including TCS in India and Livinguard in Switzerland are using the ASSURED framework. Bombay Management Association (BMA) has institutionalised an award BMA ‘ASSURED’ Enterprise of the Year Award, which was won by Byju’s in 2020.
The table below provides summary of how ASSURED Total Innovation model has been leveraged by various stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem.
|Research Institutes||• Technology evaluation
• Technology / innovation benchmarking
• Decision support matrix for projects funding
|Startups||• SWOT Analysis
• Identifying probability of success
• Formulating winning strategy
|SMEs||• Identifying roadblocks for scaling up
• formulating winning strategy
|Corporates||• Identifying hot startups
• Innovation/ tech scouting
• Innovation portfolio management
• Diagnostic tool for identifying commercialisation barriers
|Investors (Angel / VCs)||• Promising startups for investment
• Portfolio management
• Decision support matrix for funding decision
|Innovation Accelerators||• Funding decision tool
• Identifying gaps in successful commercialisation
|Government / Development Agencies||• Recognizing award worthy companies
• Best practices identification
|Industry Association /
|• Innovation benchmarking
• Best practices identification
|Policy Makers / Think Tanks||• Public procurement policy|