Thought Leadership

Spurring local innovation for global growth

Naresh Wadhwa, President & Country Manager, Cisco – India & SAARC

Some weeks ago, I read an interesting book excerpt on “value creation selling”. The concept in simple terms suggested the purchasing decision today depended greatly on the value a seller/ service provider offered the customer. Value in this case refers to business value, an improvement in business performance customers expected from the purchase.

What struck me was this concept encapsulated what I believe the Indian customer wants today. Typically, customers would rate sellers on the quality of product offering, price, after sales service, ease of use and total cost of ownership. As the Indian market evolves, the customer is looking beyond these factors and demanding business value. For instance, a large bank deploying a technology solution ultimately expects its solutions provider to deliver business relevance.  

Look at retail - the landscape of every city and town in India is changing rapidly as malls, departmental stores and hypermarkets mushroom, vying with several other store formats to reach out to the same set of consumers. The primary concern of these retail outlets is how they can differentiate, offer their customers better value and sustain profitability. Can technology help these retailers differentiate? Are their customers looking for personalization? Will a centralized network across 400-plus stores help inventory management? These are questions that any service provider or technology provider should ideally have solutions for, when selling to these retailers.

In the yesteryears, my sales pitch to a retailer might have been “why technology?” Not anymore; today, business decision makers have developed a better appreciation of technology and view it as a strategic asset. Selling a feature-rich product or a service will not suffice, what will win and retain this customer is a keen insight on his business problems and suggestions on how these could be addressed.

What is driving this shift? India has a buoyant economy, a large consumer base with spending power, and also India Inc. is looking for opportunities to scale up and globalise. Customers across the spectrum are demanding highly personalized products and services, which requires service and solutions providers to think differently and understand each customer’s specific needs.

With technology becoming all-pervasive, customers realize that this level of personalization is a possibility, making it imperative for businesses today, to personalize where required.  Consequently, businesses in India are innovating to keep pace with changing market demands.  

Several strategists reinforce this concept. They believe innovation will be led by rapidly growing emerging markets, characterized by burgeoning middle class of primarily young consumers who  demand  the latest products without compromising on quality, price or performance.

India reflects this new breed of emerging markets. We have seen innovations over the years, whether it is the sachet marketing phenomenon of the eighties or the aggressive tariff plans of mobile service providers of the new millennium or the innovatively packaged low-cost automobile. Clearly, retro-fitting in such a market is not the answer, customization and local innovation is.

However, be warned – the true beneficiaries of emerging market opportunities will not be those who pay lip service to the concept of innovation by localizing products. Companies will need to examine the market more closely, identify customer needs, understand the patterns of innovation, engage in “disruptive” thinking and if required, devise products and services wholly, so they address unique challenges which meet the price, performance targets.  

Connected agriculture solutions or voice-activated ATM screens, village knowledge centres, there are some interesting ideas being explored on-ground. And it is interesting to note that not only can these solutions catalyse economic growth in country like India, benefiting the masses and the innovators but also, lessons from these innovations could be applied in other emerging markets.

Another related theory even goes as far as to suggest these lessons could be applied in more developed economies – a concept described as “innovation blowback” by authors John Hagel and John Seely Brown in their book, ‘The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depends on Productive Friction and Dynamic Specialization.’ 
While it might be early days for ‘innovation blowback’, I know from personal experience that value creation selling is emerging as corporations become business advisors to local customers and in the process, offer innovative solutions that can be adapted for growth in similar emerging markets.

Naresh Wadhwa

Naresh Wadhwa
President & Country Manager
Cisco – India & SAARC

 

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