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Article 24

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For me 2017 is an interesting start. Within a span of a week I came across four articles:

  1. Getting India Back on Path of Innovation, NR Narayana Murthy, Economic Times, Dec. 17, 2016
  2. Tesla Reveals What it will charge for a Charge, CNN, January 13, 2017 Elon Musk announces the price for recharging an automotive battery for an electric car such as Tesla
  3. Breakthroughs in Stem Cells, Peter Diamandis, Abundance Insider Newsletter, January, 2017 
  4. Mathematical models Reveal the Patterns, How Innovations Arise, MIT Review, January, 2017

I will discuss the first two, you can read up on the other two; they are fascinating.

NR Narayana Mutthy on Indian Innovation Problem

NR Narayana Murthy has nailed one aspect of the Indian Innovation problem and offers some sage advice. [ref. 1]

… Memorising and rote learning is what we encourage our children in India to do. That is the tragedy of our educational system. The first step in our science and mathematics education should be to understand natural phenomena using theory. Such an objective will require us to adopt a pedagogy that will make children curious about the things around them. That will also force our teachers to constantly up-skill themselves. Understanding nature using theories from subjects like physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology is the first step to solving problems posed by the limitations of nature. That is how telephone, television, motor cars, blood pressure monitors and internet were invented. Today, our focus is on helping children pass examinations by memorising what is taught in schools. That is why India has not invented anything worthwhile in the last 700 years even though we have lots of smart youngsters 

India Missed the Industrial Revolution but Things are Getting Better

A part of our Indian Innovation problem was we missed the Industrial Revolution(1760-1840) because we allowed the British to rule us and destroy the Indian  economy.[ref. 2]  I know those are harsh words, but we need to own our responsibility. Change begins with me!

Things are changing for the better in India. In 2014 ISRO successfully sent unmanned Mangalyaan spacecraft to Mars. India’s telecom industry has taken off with exponential growth. Reliance Jio is providing 4G service to 100 million customers.  India has become the 4th largest producer of Wind Energy.  Solar energy has become cheaper than coal. In Chemical sector there is another breakthrough. A coal-fired power plant in Chennai, India Is turning carbon dioxide into baking soda. -- and it's running without subsidies, making it the first example of an unsubsidized industrial plant capturing CO2 for use. It is a zero emissions plant. [ref. 3]

But this is not enough. We need to accelerate innovation even more. 

Let me explain with a story.

A Tale of Two Rooms

I was walking through a building in a long hallway….

In one room lots of people were going in and out, they all were visibly happy, giggling, I wondered what was going on. 

I kept walking down the hallway, turned a corner and saw another room … 

Lots of people were going in and coming out. When they were going in in they seemed normal, when they came out they all seemed very sad. I did not understand what was going on. 

I could not resist, I decided to turn around and take a peek at the two rooms.

First room was celebrating birth of a new born, it was a joyous event; the second room had an old man lying in the bed, grasping for air, terminally ill with perhaps a few days to live. 

First room had hope, second room despair.

Just two extremes of a life cycle, a birth and a death.

Business life cycle is no different. 

When it is a Startup or the launch of a new product, it is like birth, people are happy, working hard and long, and cheerful for every little progress. A baby is a dynamo of energy, vitality and growth potential.  So is a New Product!

The product or business life cycle is an S curve.

If we don’t keep growing, we wither and die. There is no such thing as equilibrium in lifecycles. And there is only one way to keep growing, stack the S curves, and continually introduce new products.

Keep renewing and stacking the S curves. 

Recall Ries and Trout: 

It is Better to be first than it is to be better. If you are first you have a chance at 40% market share, if second 24% share, and if third 14% share.

Ries and Trout [ref. 4]

40% market share is a HUGE competitive advantage. But you may ask, what if we are not the first, second or even the third. How do we develop that competitive advantage?

How do we become first, if we are not?

There are two ways to approach the problem:

1: Make relentless improvements in quality.  Develop your product/process domain expertise. Institute Kaizen, use Deming’s PDCA cycle, Statistical Process Control, Six Sigma or whatever tools that you like. But become relentless in quality improvements, even after you become world-class. 

Toyota is a classic example.  In early fifties, Toyota was an unheard name outside Japan. Deming suggested they institute continuous quality improvements and Toyota became a world leader in Quality. And in so doing Toyota also became a world leader in automobiles.  In 1984 or so when Toyota surprised the world by introducing Lexus, a luxury automobile, Chairman of Ford said they have never seen an automobile so well made. Toyota surprised again when they introduced Prius, the hybrid automobile, in Japan in 1997 and worldwide in 2001. It took Detroit almost ten years to introduce a comparable hybrid. Prius is now sold in 40 countries. An added bonus, while mastering Quality Improvement in all aspects of its operations, Toyota also discovered and became world renowned in  KanBan, Just-in-Time, Quality Function Deployment and other business processes.

 The real trick is to follow Deming, read and re-read his 14 Points. Mimic Toyota. Make your organization a Learning Organization. Don’t just model, simulate and optimize a process, a task, reserved just for top notch R&D professionals. Involve everyone, ALL workers, they are your brains working in real time on production/shop floor, they observe, see, hear and feel the deviations, of all processes. They know the nuances better than anyone. Engage them and help them develop pride of workmanship. It will be reflected in your business bottom line. 

  1. Become different.  Here is an interesting twist on the Ries and Trout quote that I heard last week: 

It is better to be different than it is to be better.


If you differentiate carefully, you can become unique and first in your subcategory.

Tesla is one Example  Elon Musk’s Tesla, the all-electric automobile is an excellent example.  Elon Musk decided that they want to develop an all-electric vehicle, without hiring anyone from Detroit’s auto industry! Once you think about it, As NR Narayana Murthy would say if your grasp of science and fundamentals are clear, an all-electric vehicle needs four variable speed electric motors, each motor connected independently to each wheel. Electrical systems are easier to build than the mechanical engines, transmissions and braking systems. Easy to build, easy to maintain and easy to automate!

First generation Tesla gave 70 miles per battery charge, Second generation about 120 miles.  These Tesla automobiles are already capable of driverless driving! 

Here is another differentiation. On January 13, 2017 Elon Musk announced another innovative business proposition. Tesla will setup battery recharge stations all over the country.  It will cost Tesla owners $15 to charge up for a drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and $120 to go from Los Angeles to New York. Prices are higher overseas. It will cost the equivalent of $64 to drive from Paris to Rome and about $58 to drive from Beijing to Shanghai. That works out to 7 cents a mile, compared with 4 cents for the two sample U.S. trips. For comparison gasoline price in USA is about $2.50 per gallon. A typical car gives about 25 MPG, so gasoline cost is about 10 cents a mile. The electric car will have 60% lower fuel costs! [ref. 5]

That is the value of Being Different.

Amazon is another Be Different example, it started by selling books via Internet, expanded to CDs and DVDs for music and movies and now they are into everything. They are just removing the middleman - the corner retail store, everywhere. And now Amazon has differentiated so much, it talks about retail stores with no retail clerks and delivery within two hours using drones. It just took a patent for warehouses in the sky with transport using drones. An interesting by-product of retail sales using Internet is Amazon has become one of the largest provider of cloud-based computing platforms and some say Amazon has lead over both Google and Microsoft! Now that is the power of “being Different.”

Chemical Industry Example in India

If you look at the chemistry of the Solvay process and how Tuticorin, Chennai plant modified the Solvay chemistry, you will see an example of Being Different (differentiation) for a chemical process in India.

There are many tools, techniques and strategies for “Being Different.” Here are a few:

  • Consider Blue Ocean Strategy
  • TRIZ Inversion principle
  • Find and exploit an Outlier, and/or 
  • Create a subcategory for marketing purposes.

You too can achieve extra ordinary results. You just need the COURAGE to Be Different. 

This reminds me of a stanza from a Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, Here is a first line in Bengali “Jodi tor dak shune keu na ashe tobe ekla cholo re.” An English translation is “If no one responds to your call, then go your own way alone.

Good news is the technology is speeding up exponentially. The barriers to search and knowledge are disappearing.  Entropy of the system is increasing. Chaos is increasing.  Three very notable examples from recent social events are:

  1. The BREXIT vote in UK, 
  2. The Trump Election in USA, and 
  3. The Demonetization of Indian currency

New order is coming. Warren Buffet, says when others are afraid, invest! Exploit the opportunity.  Run experiments that are highly informative. Be fast and nimble. Cash in on the opportunity.

Let me know if I can help you in any way! Contact me via my email. I will be happy to help you.

Now it is Your Turn:

  1. Where are you in product life cycle? 
  2. How do you become first?
  3. How do you make continuous improvements?
    1. In product?
    2. In process?
    3. in business operations?
  4. When will you start? 

So crank up your Product Development engines… Let us speedup new product development and growth rates. And let the fun begin! 


  • This is my last article in this series. I would like to thank Dr. Prakashbhai Trivedi and Mr. BKK Kannan of ICCM for helping me. They made my job an order of magnitude easier, by taking care of all the technical production details. Thank You!
  • I am hoping to follow up with a few online training courses in several topics I talked about. Drop me a line if you are interested in learning more or providing a structured interactive online training for your R&D and business community. You can reach me through ICC or directly on my e-mail mmehta@qualisci.com. 


  1. Getting India Back on the Path of Innovation, NR Narayana Murthy http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/entrepreneurship/getting-india-back-on-the-path-of-innovation/articleshow/55846327.cms 
  2. https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/impact-industrial-revolution-india-b-world-general-273757 
  3. Peter Diamondis, Abundance Insider Newsletter, January, 2017
  4. Higher Speed to Market means Higher profits, ICCMagazine April 2015, page 48-49
  5. http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/13/technology/tesla-supercharger-pricing/index.html


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