SpicyIP:Tatas Win Award for Social Innovation

Accolades and bouquets to the iconic Tatas , the beacons of India Inc.

Thankfully the misadventures on the Nano from Singur to Sanand has left the Tatas’ social spirit unchanged.

The recent allegations that the Nano project pitted business interests against the farmers threatened to dent the impeccable Tata track record of being a socially responsible corporation.

While the controversy still glows with the last embers, the Tatas have brought home proud accolades as pioneers of social innovation

Nothing less than the crème de la crème of International Media has crowned the Tatas as the Czars of Social Innovation for the year ahead.

A prestigious recognition, the 2008 Technology Innovation Award (wireless technology category) has been conferred on TCS by the Wall Street Journal for its mobile based
crop –advisory service.

“ TCS’ mKrishi has been developed to provide personalised information and expert advice to rural farmers in their local language using sensor technology. It is also adaptable to illiterate farmers to make a query from a cell phone using voice-specific functions.”

Not only reflective of its culture of innovation but also in line with its mission of being effective social innovators, the Tatas truly believe in being the agents of change.

Social Innovation apparently a new term, viewed as an offshoot of Bill Gates Creative Capitalism had been advocated as much during the Gandhian era.

In neo-eco parlance it essentially indicates an integrated activity between private enterprise aimed at profit maximization and the non profit segments that collaborate to achieve a positive social outcome more specifically to offer sustainable long term solutions to the bottom of the pyramid(BOP) population.

The last decade has witnessed resurgence in the area of social innovation and entrepreneurs. Mohammed Yunus of the Grameen Development, the Ashoka Foundation etc have done pioneering work in the area of social innovation establishing significant developmental milestones in the rural and economically marginalized areas of the world.

Noted Gandhian economist J.C.Kumarappa had been one of the early advocates of this mdoel. Hailed for his path breaking work in propounding ‘the Economics of Peace, very early on he had averred that neither Marxism nor Capitalism may provide the necessary solutions to achieve sustainable long term development solutions.

Towards this end he advocated an architecture where private enterprise and resources are not only employed to satisfy business ethos , but also directed towards adding value to Indias ’agrarian population .In that were sown the early seeds of Social Innovation.

Equally we have seen interesting and dynamic models of Social Innovation emerge in recent times. Social Innovation being the effective use of business solution for social outcomes encompasses both processes and products that are novel solutions in themselves to fulfill unmet social needs. Readers may recall all our earlier posts on Eco-Patents, Peer to Patent, Creative Commons, Advanced Market Mechanism all of them classic path breaking models of Social Innovation.

Considering the fact that this model is gaining widespread acceptance, is India ready to move from being a welfare state to a social innovation economy.

What would it take to extract the social potential from India Inc.? A very ethical Corporation ( that’s not necessarily a titan…..small enterprises like SKS enterprises have done exceptionally well too) and a corporate cultural renaissance to get a company to invest in technologies to cater to the BOP where distribution and returns remain uncertain. Not easy for a corporation to be in the profit maximization mode and yet swim against it.

Is there a role for the government in this in terms of offering incentives , subsidies , regulations to catalyze the Social Innovation Momentum

New legislations, old wines, new bottles, a litany of theories …yet the undisputed fact remains….India Lives in its Villages.


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