Sunday, December 4, 2011

What is Innovation in the Retail context?

The word innovation conjures up images of cutting edge ideas and new things which are dramatically different and stand out. The unsaid component of innovation is the influence of large doses of intellectual thought and creativity. No wonder innovation is so very highly rated - one might even say over rated.

In the context of Retail, the word innovation is obviously linked up with absolutely marvellous and cutting edge ideas. But is that true?

I was a part of the Retail panel for the ISB Leadership Summit 2011 at Hyderabad and it was a great experience to share dais space with the likes of Mr. R Sriram who founded Crossword book stores, Mr. Ajay Kaul, the head of Jubilant Foodworks (Dominos), Mr. Harish Bahl of the Smile group and Mr. Suhas Tuljapurkar of Legasis Pertners.

One of the questions fielded was about what kind of innovations will help in Indian Retail. I identified so much with the response given by Mr. Sriram that I wanted to share that and my thoughts about it on the blog.

He said that innovation should facilitate and make the life of the customer easier. A simple example of the innovation of Cash on Delivery (CoD) which is considered to a major factor in success of e-commerce sites like Flipkart. It has actually been in vogue for ages now by the neighbourhood grocer. It is a good example of adopting a good idea to a changed context.

This is so much in sync with my view about innovation.

Innovation is about simplifying things. It is not about complicating things. Unfortunately, when things are simplified, the perception is not about great thought or intellectual prowess. Actually, it could not be further from the truth.

Definitely innovation should facilitate and make the life of the target audience simpler. However, the larger part of innovation is simplifying things. Whether it is a product, process or a system, simple and easy to use are the keywords that define true innovation.

Some good Indian examples, a few of which feature earlier in the blog are –

So, remember to keep the cardinal rule of simplifying when thinking innovation, at least with regard to Retail. Do share any examples about innovation that you have witnessed in this regard.