#5 Reasons Why Start-ups Should Invest in R&D to Produce Innovative Products and Services It is a widely accepted misconception that investment in R&D is only for large scale organizations and established brands
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Innovation today has become an over exploited word in the start-up and entrepreneurial world. For me the true meaning of innovation is when you identify and accept the prevailing challenges or needs of the industry, markets or societies and focus research and development to produce the best possible solution in the form of product or services to fill the gap.
We can learn from history where true innovators, such as Einstein and Edison dedicated their lives to research and development and ignited the world with revolutionary innovations. Start-ups and business leaders should invest wisely and effectively in R&D to enable innovation which is not just path breaking but sustainable.
Research and Development Makes Innovation Relevant
A lot of entrepreneurs replicate western concepts and technologies and label it as innovation. They may get the first mover benefit but unless customized to the local market these don't convert into success stories. Many global brands have established themselves across continents with the same product, yet encountered trouble in the Indian market. As has been observed, some that did not innovate and remodel themselves to cater to the specific needs of the Indian market gradually faded away. The vast diversity of our culture and people makes the Indian market unique and requires that certain products and services to be customized which can only be achieved through region specific R&D.
Employ the Local Knowledge Pool
It is a widely accepted misconception that investment in R&D is only for large scale organizations and established brands with generously allocated budgets and that start-ups can postpone this step until after their launch. There exists a huge knowledge pool at Indian institutes and labs, supported mainly by the government that can provide invaluable data to these cash strapped start ups which can effectively be utilized for analysis to click start the process of R&D. In a number of cases, this as yet untapped knowledge might even be the most efficient option since it is close to the ground which makes it contextually more relevant and has a deeper understanding of the target audience.
The Indian Jugaad
Innovation requires that one thinks and processes differently beyond the boundaries of prevailing constraints and redefine what is thought possible. In fact the concept of "Indian jugaad' is simply turning the problem on its head and applying given resources albeit differently and most times the emerging solutions are elegant in their simplicity. The lesson here is that many a time simply by redesigning your research and approaching a problem from a different and fresh perspective it may resolve itself. It is important to understand that using R&D simply as a tool may be counter-productive, view it instead as a process to develop, redevelop and reinvent.
Do not Quantify R&D
Effective investment in R&D will not just result in creation of a product, service or technology, but will and should develop a property which satisfies the needs of the customer and qualifies as the best market fit. A property that can lay foundation of multi facet innovation and lead to the creation of a new category opens a plethora of scope and opportunities for an entirely new and unique ecosystem. When we see this in the set up of the Indian market, what is needed is a complete package of a product/service which can build a connection with the consumers. A property which is able to win the trust and build credibility in the market can certainly scale up to growth and sustenance.
Put R&D in Place Before Your Go-to-market and Growth Strategy
Develop an agile environment for your R&D setup within the given limits and drive it towards finding the best product-market fit. Supplement your R&D team with a few sales, customer connect and marketing people so as to create a complete ecosystem nurturing innovation in the right direction. Outcomes of a robust R&D set up will not simply end at developing innovative solutions for consumer needs, it will also guide the ways and means best suited to communicate and deliver that solution to the consumers.