Nurturing Innovations One Step At A Time, Collectively!
Entrepreneurs and innovators need a stimulating environment to grow and thrive
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Every great innovation was once a mere passing thought in someone’s mind. It is the journey from idea to reality that distinguishes it and makes it a relevant product or service. This passage from mind to market can be accelerated by using some simple yet strategic tools that can help nurture such ideas. There are several stakeholders who are working towards this agenda today; When they come together, they create an environment that helps innovations not only survive, but also thrive.
For innovators to be able to scale up their innovations, it is very crucial to consider market realities, test customer reaction and assess if the innovation is able to withstand the ever-changing market dynamics. The road to scale may not be a smooth one, but it can become easier when there are certain frameworks in place to help push the process forward. What are these tools that can help scale a good innovation?
Deep rooted mentorship
Experience is an expensive asset and one which is crucial to success, if harnessed correctly. While innovators understand their core strengths like the product, the customer need and legal frameworks, they might not have the right experience to navigate through specific business challenges that their innovation may face – be it supply chain challenges, distribution challenges or go-to-market challenges. This is where the right mentor-mentee relationship can prove extremely valuable.
* A mentor can provide experienced guidance, open up networking opportunities and provide assurance to innovators as the idea builds up in a full scaled business
* It is important that the mentor not just exposes the innovator to high-level strategy for growth, but also help the entrepreneur understand how he needs to implement this strategy
* A good mentor also is a strong reality check for the entrepreneur – guiding and helping in building a strong, scalable organization.
Many-a-time, a seemingly small intervention can create significant impact for the organization. Let me explain this through an example – Zaya Labs – an organization that we have worked with in the past as part of Marico Innovation Foundation’s Scale-Up Program. Zaya Labs has created a learning software platform for schools that runs online or on-device called ClassCloud. It allows teachers and trainers to deliver personalized learning to students at a very low cost. One of the challenges faced by them was a logistics one – where 85% of their ClassCloud boxes were returned by customers due to damages in transit. A simple intervention with a practical mentor that showed the Zaya team how to manage their packaging and logistics efficiently that ensured the returns rate dropped from 85% to only 0.33%. This means that now, only 1 in 300 units gets returned by customers. This of course, has resulted in great savings, both in cost as well as in equity for Zaya Labs.
This proves that what may be “Business-as-Usual” for a mentor may, perhaps be the “A-Ha” moment for the innovator.
Support from a collaborative ecosystem
Entrepreneurs and innovators need a stimulating environment to grow and thrive. The right set of partners – be it government, incubators, accelerators, mentors or venture capitalists will ensure the right conditions for growth and exposure to the business insights at critical junctures in the business journey. Coming together through a common program, playing on individual strengths and jointly supporting entrepreneurs is the current need in the country. Certain sectors feel the need for this collaborative support even more over others - for example, the agriculture sector. The challenges faced by this sector need innovative solutions that can be implemented en masse. There is no dearth of many interesting innovations and entrepreneurs working hard to make a dent. All they need is a positive environment that can spur their innovations and help them to scale up like:
* access to farms for prototyping their innovations
* access to funding options, both from banks and from private funders
* access to government support
* access to agriculturists and professors/ universities to help them tweak their innovation across crops
* access to corporates for business opportunities
It is important for innovations to be regularly recognized and applauded for their innovative efforts – be it through positive news coverage or awards. The more we talk about them, recognize them, the more we can inspire others to innovate and disrupt. It provides the right motivation for accelerating and fueling further innovation into the ecosystem that will ultimately create the desired impact on the society as a whole.
The power of collective thinking and support
Very often we see start-ups launch with a bang and slowly wither away into oblivion. At the end of the day, no matter how good your idea is, if the end user is not exposed to it and is not engaging with it, then it may as well be non-existent.
This is especially true in a market like India that is so vastly heterogeneous, there is urgent need to disrupt and even more importantly, to sustain these disruptive innovations across sectors and business processes. Innovators must understand that their product or service must have potential for sustainability and scale in the long term, so as to ensure a lasting impact on the market in which it operates. They should reach out to the right support to help them in sustaining their business. With the combination of mentorship, collaborative ecosystem and recognition platforms, the road to create a quantifiable impact out of an idea can be made smoother and more predictable.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.