What Minimum Innovation do Corporates Need to do to Stay in the Innovation Game

Globally, many corporates are changing the way business is done. They have learned how to develop an innovative mindset by instilling best practices to shape the lives of their employees and customers alike. Even traditional companies are on the path to contributing more to the disruptive innovation ecosystem beyond mere financial returns. 

I firmly believe that if some of the most famous companies, such as Sears and Blockbuster, had been able to keep pace with innovation, they might still be here today. Perhaps, early adoption of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and other digital technologies could have helped Sears adjust to the changing retail landscape and saved the iconic brand from its downfall. Likewise, Blockbuster was blindsided by the advent of online streaming services—a technology that it failed to capture at the right time.

Though India is ranked 52nd in the global innovation index, more needs to be done by Indian corporates to stay on top of the innovation game. If established companies have to retain their competitive advantage and market standing, they need to ensure the following checkboxes are ticked, for each is integral to their innovation strategy.

Embrace risks for strategic growth

For companies focused on innovation, their appetite for taking risks should not diminish once they scale and achieve profitability. Keeping the long-term outlook in perspective, it pays for corporates to view risks as an ‘investment’ for the company’s growth. However, the reality in many established organisations today is that risk-taking is not encouraged by even the C-Suite leadership as they don’t approach business with an entrepreneurial mindset. Thus, only when the senior management displays a long-term commitment to innovation, would they be able to arrest the organisation’s potential stagnation and decline.

Over the years, Hindustan Lever has shown its proclivity for taking risks. It has been recognised multiple times on the Forbes list of The World’s Most Innovative Companies. Instead of remaining a traditional company stuck with archaic processes, the Indian FMCG giant has refreshingly moved with the times to adopt new technologies and innovate across product categories, ranging from detergents to cosmetics.

Such examples abound. They show that meaningful innovation is possible only if organisations are willing to take risks and seize new opportunities that help them transform for the digital age.

Set the bar high for employees through intrapreneurship

Modern corporates are attempting to sustain long-term growth through intrapreneurship that allows disruptive innovation at the workplace. Employees are encouraged to set the bar high to develop creative ideas that could open up new revenue streams. By advocating a culture of entrepreneurship through intrapreneurship, business leaders are accelerating innovation within corporations. 

Corporates are developing intrapreneurship programs as they are increasingly seeing the benefits of fostering entrepreneurial behaviour among employees. Intrapreneurs understand the company’s culture and smartly leverage the available resources to boost the organisation’s bottom line. Further, when employees develop creative and radical innovations in-house, it helps retain talent as well as attract outside talent. Intrapreneurship also does away with corporate silos, paving the way for healthy collaboration and ideation across departments.

Indian IT major Wipro has always been at the forefront of innovation. It started the Horizon Program to give a platform for employees to develop new ideas in-house and lend them the infrastructure to develop the same. Sir Richard Branson, founder, Virgin Group, has often acknowledged the role played one of his employees in providing an innovative design solution for Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class cabin seats. If more business leaders unleased their employees’ creativity—by going against the company ‘rule book’—powerful and innovative solutions would be born.

Partner with startups for continued innovation

In recent years, large corporates have been prioritising innovation by forging meaningful collaborations with startups. 

Companies that invest in startups enhance the innovation ecosystem. Such a collaborative approach to problem-solving helps business leaders feel the pulse of the marketplace. Global organisations are setting up accelerators, incubators and corporate innovation programs to attract and partner with startups. 

For example, through its program ‘Edison [X]- Startups powered by GE Healthcare’, GE Healthcare invites Indian startups to provide insightful and cost-effective solutions for improved patient outcomes.

T-Hub’s Corporate Innovation Division (CID) hosts a steady stream of corporate innovation programs that bring together corporates and startups that result in delivering unique tech-led solutions to problems across industries.

Stay engaged with customers 

Finally, never underestimate your customer. This dictum is sacrosanct as all companies must put customers first. Corporates are increasingly realising the importance of involving customers for driving innovation and growth. I reckon there is no better way for businesses to survive in the age of cut-throat competition. Organisations that have their ear to the ground are typically those that listen to their customers’ demands. A customer-centric approach helps companies strategise their innovation roadmap and sustain differentiation in a competitive market. 

For instance, Bata India Ltd. seems to be on a mission to stay relevant to an evolving customer base. While earlier the company was slow to understand customer preferences, the last couple of years have witnessed Bata India try to revamp the brand to suit the needs of the millennials. By anchoring their product innovation strategy to meet the expectations of the younger generation of consumers, Bata has seen a growth spurt of 2-3 per cent over FY 2017-18. Staying focused on innovation has helped the company achieve a profitable turnaround—a marked departure from the time Bata India was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2005.


If corporates want to stay in the innovation game, they should be willing to step out of their comfort zone and develop out-of-the-box ideas. Staying relevant is the need of the hour for long-standing organisations. While digital technologies can drive innovation up to a point, the bigger challenge for every business is to keep reinventing their business model to propel them into the future. In my opinion, as long as a business creates and delivers value for customers, it is on the unbridled path to innovation. Otherwise, it could potentially spell its own doom.

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