Innovation Series

Innovation Series #6: Innovation Gap – Part 1

I am writing this post with an intent of sharing my thoughts on small innovation gap’s which I commonly see (I will definitely not be able to list many gap’s, but if you notice a gap, then please post it as a comment for this post).

Wikipedia has a good introduction to Innovation and hence, will not go in detail.

What inspired me write this post is the amount of attention Innovation is getting these days and the number of aspirants thinking of doing something different from others.

Auto-Rickshaw

Let us look at a common example – For how long have you been seeing an auto-rickshaw, aka ‘auto’? (If you not an Indian, probably its a good idea to search on google for some pictures of auto). Well, let us say for our understanding that it has been close to 20 Years since there have been autos. Search for some pictures of the earlier auto’s and when you compare the look and feel to the current day’s auto’s, you will not find any major changes except for few ‘look’ changes. Every time we get into an auto, we know how dangerous it is and also few times, very uncomfortable. Try speaking to any auto drivers, you will understand how frustrating it is for them too. You sit in the auto for couple of minutes to reach your destination, but just imaging the plight of the driver who drives it all day long – during summers, rains and floods. There are not many options to customize the auto too (even though we have more auto’s in the country than cars, which have quite a number of re-design / re-model shops). Now, I am not speaking of extravagant modification’s, but bare minimum things.

An example I can quote here is the wiper on the windshield. Did you notice that the wiper is not automatic unlike the car? It has to be moved using a small handle inside to clean the glass. First of all the vehicle is a three-wheeler with a handle. Gears on the left side and accelerator on the right side with also the front break. Is there a way the driver can leave the handle on one side and continuously keep cleaning the glass? Its not only a pain, but the most dangerous.

When you look at the drivers seat, you also understand that there is no appropriate care taken to design the same. The distance between the seat and the handle is a bit longer and it poses great health issues to the driver, especially if he/she has a moderate body structure.

Do you think auto’s have suspension? Well, if you think so, check it out next time. There is suspension for all the wheels, but only because they have to be and not to address the actual reason for having them 🙂

If I go on, there are even more – the headlight is as small as a moped (miniature version of a bike) and there is no luggage space too.

This is what I call “Innovation Gap”.

There are various factors which govern the Innovation Gap – Competition, acceptance, target audience market saturation are to list a few.

  • If there is no competition and the manufacturer is almost a monopoly, then the chances of Innovation are very low.
  • Naturally, when there is no acceptance in the market, then there is no motivation for Innovation
  • Target audience makes a very huge impact. When you know the customer will adjust, again there is nothing motivating for innovation. Also, there are products/services in the market which get the customer to get accustomed and thereby reducing the thought process for innovating new aspects to the product/service.
  • Market saturation – When you know the market size and very well assured that it would not grow, you tend to do things which are easy for you rather than enhancing the product and trying new things.

Out Auto example above is a classic illustration of how Target audience and Market Saturation drive Innovation. Also, there are not many companies which manufacture auto’s and hence the existing manufactures have no motivation to enhance the product. I agree that over the last 2 years, there have been 5/6/8 seater auto’s coming into market, but the design is sill the same (well almost, the handle bar is replaced with a steering wheel).

I will conclude this case study here, but assure you that there is more to come..

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