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The Emerging Patterns of Grassroot Innovation
Concept, Roots and Scope of Commercialization
A project of:
Start: March 2011
Duration: Six months
Project Status: Completed
Keywords: Grassroot Innovations; Bottom of the Pyramid; Bottom of the Economic Pyramid; Base of the Pyramid; Frugal Innovations; Gandhian Innovations; Honey Bee Network, National Innovation Foundation, SRISTI, Anil Gupta
Schlüsselwörter: wurzelnahe Innovationen; Frugale Innovationen
An edited and updated version of this study was published as:
Nair, A. K., Tiwari, R. and Buse, S. (2017): Emerging Patterns of Grassroots Innovations: Results of a Conceptual Study Based on Selected Cases from India. In: Herstatt, C. and Tiwari, R., eds. Lead Market India: Key Elements and Corporate Perspectives for Frugal Innovations. Heidelberg: Springer, 65-95.
Despite the penetrative reach of "globalization", the global poor are yet to be sufficiently integrated with vibrant, market driven economies. This disconnect often results in their exclusion from the benefits of globalization. Several multinational corporations, until recent years, have concentrated their resources (capital, creativity and labour) on products and services which cater to the needs of the consumers who very obviously can afford these solutions. The challenge of creating new markets by reaching out to those consumers who prima facie do not belong to the target group have been left largely unconsidered till not long back. At the same time, large corporations which strive to fulfil the needs of the "non-consumer" have little or no access to the wealth of information which is required to satisfy their needs and solve their daily problems.
As, a result, for several years the knowledge-rich but economically-poor people have been relying on their creativity and local knowledge to devise solutions which can solve their day-to-day problems. These solutions generally tend to be ‘better fit’ solutions as an intangible amount of ‘contextual knowledge’ is articulated while developing the product or service. The point now is that if a low-cost solution is found addressing a problem at one place, can that be applied to solve a similar problem elsewhere? If yes, then can that solution/ business model be converted into a product/service and be used as a tool for revenue generation for the solution provider?
The paradigm of grassroot innovations might offer a unique model to promote development in which the poor not only play a part, but also assume a leadership role in the creation of ‘shared value’. Policies which encourage grassroot innovations and promote the integration of these products and services into business eco systems can act as a driver for economic growth at the bottom of the pyramid. The increased opportunities for wealth and job creations at the grassroots level would increase social mobility which in turn would foster inclusive growth. One might argue that these innovations should be encouraged and adequate support should be provided to scale up these innovations because these innovations “goes with the grain of people’s life and so are able to engage people with issues and embed behaviour changes more effectively” (Roberts, 2005) .
However, little academic research has been carried out to promote a better understanding of these phenomena and the resulting implications. Grassroot innovations have often been clubbed along with ‘bottom of the pyramid innovations’ and ‘frugal engineering/innovations’ despite ‘grass root innovations’ having their own unique flavours which distinguishes them from the other genres of innovation. Further, replicating these stand alone innovations into sustainable business models requires the establishment of conditions which impact the internationalisation of such products. Having established these conditions, traditional management theories and practises would have to to be examined and extended to capture and unleash the business potential of these innovations. The key questions which this thesis would attempt to outline include:
"Grassroot innovations" have often been a response to the local deficiencies but can it be turned into business models which are universally replicable?
Q1) What are grassroot innovation ?
Q2) Can they be internationalised or are they strongly rooted in the regional innovation system?
The objective of this research is to bring to light, the emerging field of grassroots innovation and the patterns which it adopts. This would allow us to explore the business possibilities it offers. The insights for this research can be used by businesses, policymakers and the academia to understand:
A better understanding of grassroot innovation would not only ensure a freer world where skills and intellect are rewarded, in some cases handsomely but would also tackle the most unfair sorts of income disparity, and allow more people to move socially upwards by ensuring their participation in wealth creation.
To meet the above objectives the following procedure will be followed: