Dev Patnaik, co-founder, Jump Associates LLC, came to India on a mission—to gauge the state of innovation in the economy. In the US, Patnaik’s consulting firm helps organizations tap into new markets, develop new products, capture new sets of customers and create a culture that fosters innovation. His list of clients includes General Electric, Sony, Virgin and Yahoo. 15 years after leaving India, Patnaik has returned to see if his nine-year-old company should open its third office in Mumbai (the other two are in San Mateo and New York).
In this interview with Mint, Patnaik talks about what he has learnt about India and Indian innovations. Excerpts:
How will you rate Indian companies’ readiness for innovation?
Indian company heads seem to know the days of high growth will not last. So, they ask themselves, “What will we do next?” The top companies are planning for the next 10 years. The news flash for me was this: The big guys know that 40% growth won’t last forever and they have been planning for a while.
What exactly led you to this conclusion?
I met the heads of top companies during my two-week stay here and they were all asking me about the big picture. They wanted to know how to create a culture of innovation. I also found that many companies have created a ‘head of innovation’ position recently. The title may not be the same in every company, but the bottom line is, they are all thinking about innovation.
Different companies have different requirements in terms of innovation. How do you identify their specific needs?
We try to look at companies, consumers and markets from a different perspective, using social-research techniques. For example, if you study human behaviour, one of the things you discover is that they are influenced by distances. In a place with a high ceiling, people talk more formally, and quietly. As you lower the ceiling inch by inch, people start to talk more casually and loudly. They are more likely to tell the truth in a low-ceiling room.
So, if offices were to be designed keeping this in mind, the structure of a conference room should be different from a room where people discuss more sensitive subjects. We use such insights to help our clients.
Going by your list of clients, it seems you only work with large companies?
We work with some mid-sized companies that are good at execution. Innovation is 90% good execution. Bigger companies, which are often better at that, usually get the most out of our services.
What are your plans for India?
We are going to start working with some of India’s MNCs. And if there is a need, we will set up an office, too.