Source | Entrepreneur : By Aniket Singh
The saying, imitation is the best form of flattery, holds true for the majority – especially in business. A number of Indian startups have borrowed successful ideas from established companies abroad, and have adopted and modified them to suit Indian demands. Hence, while Big Bazaar was the Indian answer to Wall Mart, Star Bucks faced tough competition from Café Coffee Day in India,Flipkart was inspired by Amazon and Ola was India’s Uber… the list goes on. In fact, according to research by Tracxn, an analytics firm that tracks startups, for every established startup in the USA, there area number of startups that have come up in India which have been heavily inspired by their US counterparts.
The common thread between these startups and their founders is the exposure to different cultural environments that have enabled Indian entrepreneurs to come up with innovative products which they then implement in their home market. But where these companies may be similar to the original ones in the services they offer, they have differentiated themselves by tweaking their products and innovating for the Indian market. Thus, bringing about the perfect amalgamation of international ideas and Indian innovation.
How cultural experiences foster innovation
In his travelogue, titled Innocents Abroad, American writer, humorist, entrepreneur and lecturer, Mark Twain, who sailed around the coast of the Mediterranean in 1869, wrote that travel is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” What Twain wrote then has been corroborated by researchers and scientists today. That the new sounds, smells, sights and feelings that arise when one travels have the potential to spark changes in our brain’s neural pathways, hence increasing our ability to create and innovate.
When California based apparel company La Jolla Group found out in 2007 that they were facing a shortage of designers for their surf fashion, CEO Toby Bust had a brain-wave – to have teens participate in a runway fashion show judged by the audience. The winner would then get USD 4,000, free clothes and an internship at La Jolla. This thus enabled the company to groom talented interns to innovate and become future designers in the company.
Hence, instead of relying on his own employees, or hiring new ones, CEO Bust realized the potential of hiring talented interns to work on bringing out innovative designs for his apparel line, thus giving him an edge over his competitors. This proves that companies that foster innovation are ones that learn from diversity and from new talent.