This blog post was written with the assistance of Haas intern Micah Sanders.
For more than three years, Erika Walker, executive director of the Haas Undergraduate Program, and Solomon Darwin, associate director of Haas’ Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, have carefully planned and strategized on a travel study course in India. Their goals: to expose students to unique learning opportunities not available in a traditional classroom and to encourage global thinking. Their dedication finally paid off this year as UGBA193i, the open innovation course for emerging economies, kicked off in Bangalore earlier this month.
The three-unit course is taking 25 students to local and multinational companies in India, including IBM, SAP, Philips, Xerox, and General Electric and Selco, Idiom, and Apollo Hospitals. Students are mentoring Indian youth, helping them build and develop business models for their business ideas. The students are staying in Bangalore, also known as the Silicon Valley of India.
Upon their return in California, groups of five students will begin consulting projects with eight clients to provide strategic recommendations for transforming the companies’ existing business models.
Before heading to Bangalore on Jan. 2, Darwin provided students with a comprehensive overview of open innovation—and the differences in how it works in the U.S. and emerging economies. Darwin introduced the Hindi-Urdu term jugaad, which he said means frugal in English. According to Darwin, students will learn to practice jugaad innovation in India, where resources are constrained and the market has less disposable income. Unlike the margin-centric focus of American companies, emerging markets look at sales volume.
India – Day 1
Before corporate visits at Xerox and IDIOM, alumnus Rakesh Singh, MBA 95, general manager of Citrix India, gave students an overview of India’s business and socioeconomic landscape and welcomed students on behalf of the Haas Alumni Network in Bangalore.
Singh noted there are more than 800 companies booming in Bangalore’s IT industry right now. Innovations in technology such as the Internet and other forms of media have made corruption less difficult to track, causing the Indian population to mobilize and create new political parties to produce real change, he said. And in education, the Indian people, young adults especially, are increasingly becoming more aware and convinced of the significance of literacy. His talk underscored the huge role that innovation plays in all aspects of India’s progress and Indian markets.
Despite a $1.5 billion R&D budget, students learned that Xerox is focusing on a business innovation model that is geared towards jugaad or frugal innovation, which means innovating out of necessity in the most efficient and least costly ways possible.
After outlining examples of innovation in parking, transportation, and health care, Xerox explained how open innovation might be applied in banking in India, which suffers from unorganized business models, cultural taboos, and customer misunderstandings. Xerox developed a more open business model that included rural areas in which it was able to lower the cost of opening a bank account by 50 times and cut waiting time from three days to only 10 to 30 minutes.
IDIOM, a design and consulting firm based in India that incubates business ideas and ideas for societal transformation, told students about their startup program called DREAM:IN. The founders of DREAM:IN, a nonprofit, saw that many Indians knew how to take advantage of circumstances, but only a few were able to maximize their opportunities. Thus, the company teaches people ways to innovate based on their dreams and goals by making better use of assets at their disposal. While DREAM:IN’s target audience are the less educated, the nonprofit is mobilizing young people to innovate and create new jobs through entrepreneurship.
Despite all the talk about innovation, students decided to wrap up their night with a familiar American culinary experience: McDonald’s.