The KSeeker

In Search of Knowledge…

Testing business ideas with sand..

Posted by Girish Krishnan on September 21, 2006

If you are interested in business at the Bottom of the Pyramid – here’s an article by CK Prahlad. Its called the Innovation Sandbox..

The Innovation Sandbox is an interesting concept, the basic premise of which is as follows….

Innovating in India has been tough because the environment is not very congenial for it(high cost, stupid traditions, regulatory authorities, corruption).The health care system in India is not something which we could boast of to the world as most of the high level metrics (collected) give a dismal picture – high infant mortality, rapid increase in people affected by HIV/AIDS, Type 2 Diabetes, large number of cases of child malnourishment etc. But our own inherent constraints such as non-availability of medical aid, inability of the customers to pay, time constaints in delivering the service etc have actually helped us to develop cost effective and globally competitive products and services – Be it cardiac transplantations done in Narayana Hrudalaya, the Jaipur foot distributed by the BMVSS or the low price eye surgeries done by Arvind eye hospitals. The number of such sparks are very few in an otherwise brownish grey world.But then from the view point of an optimist these nonnegotiable standards allow us to challenge many assumptions regarding cost, quality, and delivery!

The idea is to use the innovation Sanbox model to actually come up with new innovations. You could visualize this stuff as an open cardboard box, the borders of which represent the main constraints, and of course impose as many constraints on the sand so that it takes so new weird shape coherant with all the requirements. The model definitely looks good in paper and it really does do well as a tool to study the unique business models that have come up in tough Indian conditions.
But after seeing a zillion frameworks at my BSchool, i have got convinced that though they aid assembling a solution, they kind of suppress the raw creativity due to their silo-based approach. One should also remember that models are more driven by hindsight than foresight – they contain the gist of something that has already happened but dont always capture that elusive seed to creativity!

However, i agree fully with the idea that the BOP customers are probably a great base to try out new offerings. Because, if you are able to satisfy them, you have crossed the acid test for a new business idea.The constraints imposed for selling your service or product are so many, and more importantly you arent allowed to compromise on quality. So the next time you are thinking of incubating something world class, try using the sandbox as a filter – you might just find a competitive solution to the world’s problems!


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