By Tarun Kumar Bansal
Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: India has been at the centre of incremental innovation, where businesses have been making small improvements to existing products/services. The past few years have also seen the emergence of startups with the potential to open doors to new markets. This combination has helped the country climb up the innovation ladder. India scored 46th rank in the Global Innovation Index 2021 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a jump of 35 spots from the 81st position in 2015.
Although Indian companies have been innovating, there still lies the abundant untapped potential to develop new technologies, especially among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). While MSMEs contribute to around 30 per cent of India’s GDP, they have a much bigger role to play in inventing new technologies and markets for the country to emerge as a global innovation leader. But their small scale and scarce resources keep them from capturing innovations at the right time, calling for an impetus to drive them towards inventions and creativity.
The spirit of innovation can be accelerated by diligently following its three stages of creating something new in the market, i.e., conceiving, identifying, and communicating. There are simple ways to improve on all three steps and complete the virtuous cycle of innovation.
One must first conceive an idea with the potential to transform into a successful business solution before it can be explored and exploited. Revolutionary ideas do not just simply pop up in the mind. An environment that nurtures creativity and helps germinate ideas is critical. Training programs and workshops can be instrumental in this regard. These sessions can help unleash the innovation capabilities of the young, skilled, and knowledgeable Indian population. In addition, these training sessions and workshops can also help MSMEs to conduct patent searches on their own across the innovation and technical databases which eventually helps them to narrow down the right areas to innovate. In a nutshell, they get a clear and focused vision which is essential for finding better solutions to consumer problems.
A strong rewards and recognition program, regardless of the IP worthiness of the outcome, can aid in motivating and encouraging people to come up with out-of-the-box solutions. Another challenge that MSMEs face in innovating is the dearth of means and materials. Research and development departments are routinely strapped for resources crucial for innovation. MSMEs seeking to grow must allocate sufficient resources for R&D teams, marketing units, etc.
Identifying a Worthy Idea
Identifying the IP worthiness of a new idea is another area with much work to do. Indian MSMEs and startups often do not realize the full potential of their great inventions and protect their creation with relevant IP rights. The share of patents granted for MSMEs is projected anywhere between 2.8 to 23.4 per cent of all the patents granted to Indian residents by the Indian Patent Office. It is common for R&D teams at MSMEs to believe that something very complex and of rocket science level can be patented, which is not true. This points toward the low IP awareness among MSMEs. As a countermeasure and to identify what can be IP-worthy, MSMEs should conduct searches across patent databases and look at the patents filed by their competitors.
Inventions with great potential often wither away in obscurity just because inventors did not effectively convey the idea to consumers. With their limited resources and capabilities, MSMEs regularly find it difficult to capitalize on the power of communication. Conclaves, expos and local exhibitions are great platforms for small businesses to diffuse their ideas and inventions. The Government of India is also taking initiatives to provide MSMEs with a platform and chance to compete with industry leaders. More such opportunities will only inspire companies to put a spotlight on their creative solutions.
Fortunately, MSMEs are learning the need and impact of innovation and IP on their sustainability, and Flash Electronics v. Royal Enfield is the perfect example. The automotive-products manufacturer filed a lawsuit in the US against the iconic Indian motorcycle maker for infringing on its “Regulator Rectifier Device and Method for Regulating an Output Voltage of the Same.” Flash Electronics demanded that Royal Enfield stop infringing on the patent and compensate it for the violation. Had Flash Electronics been unaware of their novelty and failed to garner protective rights, any company could have easily continued to duplicate their products and run them out of business.
India – A Goldmine to Pursue Innovation
Any developing country such as India, with an immense young population, rising disposable income, and inclination for better products and services, is a goldmine for small businesses to pursue innovation. India is a unique market with a demographic variation rarely seen anywhere else in the world. That is why diverse marketing segments with their demands for customized products and services make it an ideal place for MSMEs to innovate and cater to consumers’ needs.
Many global business leaders believe the 21st century to be the ‘Indian Century’, and MSMEs must deliver their creative best for this dream to come true. Perhaps the next world-changing and generation-defining idea will crop up from one of India’s 6.3 crore MSMEs.
Tarun Kumar Bansal is President of Sagacious IP. Views expressed are the author’s own.