University of Southern California

It’s Here: Reverse Innovation
February 11, 2011 • by Gerry Tellis

When I was growing up in India, innovation worked like this:  Companies in developed countries such as America, pioneered innovations.  As those innovations matured and new ones emerged, American businesses would dump the old products on developing markets, like India.  Today, the world has changed. Our research shows that, on an annual basis, India has more new R&D jobs, investments, labs, and projects than most countries of the world. It also has millions of entrepreneurs hungry to develop innovations of their own – ones that are low-priced, efficient, and surprising. And they could soon enter developed economies.

Consider for example:

  • The Jaipur foot. $30 for a prosthetic foot versus $3,000 in the U.S.
  • Aravind eye surgery. $50-$300 for cataract surgery versus $4,000 in the U.S.
  • Bharti outsourced phone service. $.02 per minute cost to consumers.
  • Tata Nano modular car. $2500 for a vehicle that delivers 67 miles per gallon.

The global direction of innovation is beginning to reverse... 

This is a vital issue in business today. We all know that manufacturing has gone to China; agriculture is moving to South America; services are fleeing to India. But innovation? Innovation has been thought of historically as an American prerogative.  Given this impending revolution, how should major global corporations manage their innovation?

The USC Marshall Center for Global Innovation is tackling the subject. March 17-18, we are hosting a conference that grapples with this essential topic:  Innovating in a Global Environment. We’re bringing together speakers like John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist at Xerox; Rohit Deshpande, Professor at the Harvard Business School; Dondeena Bradley, VP Global Nutrition, PepsiCo; Roberto Reniero, Center Head of R&D Solon, Nestle; and Kirk Ward, Global Head of Product Development & Innovation, TNS. 

Over years of research, I’ve come to believe that the single factor most responsible for the wealth of companies and countries is innovation. It’s true in business; it’s true for economies, and even for civilizations.  Past success or current resources are no guarantee for the future. The future belongs to the innovative. That’s why I believe in Marshall.  We place a tremendous emphasis on innovative change. We never stand still. The administration, faculty, and students are constantly looking for new ways in education, new insights into business, and new paradigms in the world around us.

I hope you will join me at the conference. Click here to register. And that you will also join me in supporting the school that makes it all possible:  USC’s Marshall School of Business.

Fight On!
Dr. Gerard J. Tellis
Director of Center for Global Innovation