Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Reverse Innovation

Name of the Book: ReverseInnovation
Author: Vijay Govindrajan and Chris Trimble
No. of pages: 229
Price: Rs 750
Published by: Harvard Business Review Press

Reverse Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble is not merely a book; it is a precursor to the transformation that global economies and business models are going to undergo in next few decades. The vast experience of the authors and their academic background can be felt in the way the book has been shaped. The key concepts are beautifully articulated and backed by relevant examples. The book keeps the reader pegged throughout and captures the essence of reverse innovation in a very creative and stimulating manner.
The book is divided into two parts – The Reverse Innovation Challenge and Reverse Innovation in action. The part 1 lays foundation about the concept of Reverse Innovation with the help of numerous interesting examples. It is divided into four chapters each highlighting aspects of Reverse Innovation like the need for consumer centered approach, thinking pattern, analyzing need gaps, adhering flexible management models etc. The citations help the readers to understand the various concepts involved in the process reverse innovation. With examples like Pepsi Co’s Gatorade and GE’s approach to healthcare, authors have made it very easy to analyse the changing management models and understand the rationale behind the decisions making.
The story of Gatorade dates back to almost 1960’s, when a group of doctors from West went to Bangladesh and parts of South Asia to help stem the cholera epidemic. They were surprised to discover the age-old treatment for severe diarrhea caused by cholera. A concentration of ingredients such as coconut water, carrot Juice, rice water, carob flour and dehydrated bananas was prescribed to the patients to amazing medical results. The success of the treatment was published in Lancet, British Medical Journal and was implemented by a doctor at the University of Florida. Gatorade what we see today is one of the rare example of Reverse Innovation.
The second part of the book, The Reverse Innovation playbook, highlights eight case studies on how organisations have adopted the concept of reverse innovation – their journey, challenges and exhilarating awards that have reaped over the course of time. There are case studies on Pepsi Co, Procter and Gamble, EMC corporation, Harman International, Deere and Company, GE Healthcare India and PIH Model.
The case study of Pepsi Co reveals how the understanding of the local consumer helped the Pepsi Co. to innovate as per their needs, at the same time deliver products to a much wider global consumer segment. ‘Aliva’ a savory cracker is a success story that reaffirms the theory of Reverse Innovation. Aliva was conceptualized for the Indian consumers by local teams but had the potential to appeal to the health conscious global consumer as well.
Similarly, the case study of Harman International industries is an example of how innovative ideas meet with resistance at every step and to resolve the bottle neck situations. It also shows how through perseverance and sustained mindset odds can be achieved. Harman designed a completely new automobile infotainment system for consumers in India and China. It had the functionality similar to their high-end products at half the price and one-third the cost.
This book is a roadmap for business leaders to blend their organizational goals with innovative vision and tap the huge opportunities that emerging markets offer. Most of the economist forecast that global economies are going to undergo a substantial paradigm shift and developing countries are going to account for major chunk of revenues for MNCs. To sum it up - Understand the local consumer in emerging markets, Innovate to meet their needs, Go Global!
The only criticism about the book can be that it is centered on the big MNC’s. The medium sized companies in developed countries do not have the luxury of capital surplus to invest in setting up Local Growth teams overseas. Also the companies in emerging markets don’t have enough expertise to scale up their operations to the developed world.

This review was published in Healthcare Executive Magazine, August Issue