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India’s appetite for technology and innovation truly straddles the pyramid–from
business professionals in major metros to rural workers across India. At the same
time, the case for inclusive innovation has never been stronger. The middle class
is set to grow and carry discretionary spending power of USD 1.532 trillion over
the next 15 years. Likewise, the affluent class is poised for growth ahead of other
large emerging markets, creating 24 million people that will be responsible for
20 percent of national private consumption.
The challenges, opportunities, and rewards afforded to these individuals over the
next 15 years will have a dramatic impact on the societal, financial, and relative
strength of India.
Inclusive innovation means many things to many people. For India, inclusive innovation
represents an opportunity to unlock the creativity and business prowess of the country’s
rising stars. More specifically, it’s the culmination of innovations from, for,
and with India.
However research has shown that entrepreneurs in India are three-times less likely
to create a new product or new market business than those of the US. With 90 percent
of Indian entrepreneurs focused on improving existing products and markets, the
potential for innovation is immediately reduced.
There are several soft factors which can inhibit innovation and entrepreneurship
in India. These are perception of capabilities, fear of failure, and growth expectations.
The hard inhibitors of innovation in India relative to other markets are per-capita
income, red-tape, national and international tariffs, and respect for intellectual
Also, many of India’s aspiring entrepreneurs in ICT have trained their sights on
the US and Western European markets. Targeting international markets is obviously
itself not a bad thing and good for the overall economy in India, but by doing so,
entrepreneurs are adding significant pressures and complications to the already
difficult task of starting a venture. This challenge is further heightened as the
cost arbitrage model starts to dissipate and entrepreneurs are forced to compete
on innovation in an environment where they’re not intimately familiar.
Although there certainly is no silver bullet to tackle the soft and hard inhibitors
for innovation in India, each of the above is significantly mitigated when the entrepreneur
targets the domestic market–particularly as Indians are 15 percent more likely to
experiment with new innovations than the US or China. When such a hungry test bed
for innovation exists locally, why do the country’s best ICT innovators remain focused
Through research and a constant flow of feedback from investors, entrepreneurs,
and software partners, Microsoft has identified six broad areas that would have
a dramatic impact on the number of entrepreneurs innovating in ICT for the domestic
market. These areas are: India-specific practical guidance for aspiring entrepreneurs,
financial incentives for domestic innovators, incubation infrastructure, proactive
campaigns to empower entrepreneurs from underrepresented minorities, seed funding
and IP leadership and enforcement.
India has millions of science, technology, engineering, and management students,
making it a hot bed for the world’s most innovative ventures. However, many of these
students are not employable, which means they do not possess the skills that made
them industry and workplace ready. Microsoft has been focusing on imparting such
skill sets to students to improve their employability quotient. At the same time,
it is also mobilizing these students to innovate. Year after year, thousands of
students across India in the fields of science, technology, engineering, management,
and design participate in the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition. With this contest,
students have an opportunity to compete with like-minded peers and be recognized
for their technical abilities by industry leaders and academics. The finalist teams
compete in nine categories including Software Design, Embedded Development, Web
Development, Project Hoshimi (Programming Battle), IT Challenge, Algorithm, Photography,
Short Film and Interface Design.
Over the years, Imagine Cup has grown from strength-to-strength. After the Imagine
Cup takes places, students have the opportunity to turn their ideas into reality.
The Imagine Cup Innovation Accelerator is a unique opportunity for the top five
Imagine Cup finalists from the software design competition to harness their exceptional
talents and take their ideas a step closer to commercial reality. The program is
designed to inspire new generations of students to apply their skills and creativity
to make a difference, both globally and locally, through technology. In India, the
program is implemented in partnership with the Center for Innovation Incubation
and Entrepreneurship at IIM-A.
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