The moment you say a product is made in Japan, what’s the perception you have? That it’s of a good quality, durable and trustworthy, right?
Did you know that this wasn’t always the case?
Surprising as it may sound, there was a time when most products built in Japan were considered terrible. This was back in the 1940s.
Then something happened.
By the 1970s, Japan started producing goods that were far superior when compared to the rest of the world. And as you can tell, they have only perfected the art since then. The tag ‘Made in Japan’ soon became synonymous with quality.
What caused this sudden change, you may wonder?
The Secret Sauce
Before we come to that, we need to understand the global scenario of that time. The USA was leading the industrial race, with its capitalist ideology and major leaps in technology. The European countries were not too far behind. Struggling from losses owing to colonization, war and natural calamities, the Asian countries were far, far behind.
This is when Japan stumbled upon the secret sauce that would catapult them to their eventual and long-lasting success: innovation.
The Japanese understood the importance of innovation and tirelessly plunged themselves headfirst into innovating new processes that worked — concepts such as kaizen began to emerge, management techniques such as six sigma began to take shape and total quality management became a hot topic in the then Japan.
The result? The Japan we know and revere today.
Soon, Japan was home to global powerhouses such as Sony and Suzuki. A tiny island practically cut-off from rest of the world and plagued by earthquakes and tsunamis became a force to reckon with. A relatively poor country transformed to one of the richest countries in the world in less than a generation.
All because of their focus on innovation.
Copy-Paste: The Key to India’s Success?
India is quite effortlessly leading the world: when it comes to population. While India’s mammoth head count comes with a bunch of problems, it also is a vast, unexplored ocean of opportunities.
For India to actually tap into its biggest strength (we are going to think positive), we need to develop our own markets and build our own solutions. In order to do that, we need to create new solutions and new technologies in our own unique way.
What India needs to do now is to develop its own practices, find its own secret sauce of how to build great companies and great products. In order to do that, we need to innovate and invent our own practices, just like Japan did in the 1970s to become a global powerhouse. They have done it before us, they have done the hard work. All we need to do is copy-paste that formula. Now, copy-paste doesn’t mean aping Japan. It means we copy their philosophy and paste it (intelligently) to fit India.
Thoughts Are Things
There are a bunch of pesky hurdles to overcome.
Majority of our college students still prefer a job over self employment, most of our businesses are still more risk averse than other countries, and for most of us, safety and security are paramount.
While a huge population still clings to our age-old need for safety, there’s a promising sun rising on the horizon: a new breed of Indians that knows no fear, knows no way to live than on the edge and knows only one way of living — to follow their dreams with a fiery passion. It’s a generation with the right mindset for business and innovation, as what else is innovation, but an act of rebellion?
Another mindset we need to overcome is something that comes quite naturally to our neighbours in the north: the Chinese.
In China, it is common for even a tiny manufacturing company to export its goods worldwide. It’s almost unheard of in India. Even when it comes to fields such as software development, where the world sells to other parts of the world, India somehow shies away from doing so, perhaps owing to a lack of ambition.
Another common mindset among India business owners is that not many of them want to be the best in the world. They are happy to play second fiddle to other companies as long as they are fairly successful. Imagine if Steve Jobs had thought this way.
Innovating new processes that work can be a great fuel for the fire ambition is. If we work enough on our processes, out outcomes becomes fool proof, our results become more predictable, our successes become more predictable.
The most common byproduct in the pursuit of innovation is knowledge. If we are able to properly articulate and document that knowledge, analyse it and disperse it into the broad ecosystem, everybody will benefit from it. We will have a strong knowledge base, which will serve as the perfect foundation for our success as a nation. We will grow together, just like Japan did. This is one of the main reasons why we should pursue innovation.
To understand the second reason why innovation is important, we need to take a long, hard look at the Indian situation compared to other developed countries. Let’s take the US as an example.
The startup ecosystem in the US is actually quite capital, in the sense that it’s easy to get funded. The situation in India is quite different. It is not a well-oiled capital market and will not be one for a long, long time. So, it’s difficult for even the ambitious lot to start a business. Funnily, one of the reasons behind this disparity is because since people in the US are more comfortable with risk, so are the investors, who are more comfortable in investing in something than an Indian investor would be.
The solution? Innovation. Innovation allows us to create high-value products and high-value services within your constraints.
Innovation was key in cementing Japan’s position as a world superpower. If our main focus shift to innovation and if cultivate the right mindset, India can transform as just another developing nation to a world super power. We just need to start believing we can. And we will.