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De­cod­ing in­no­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity

Any­where one goes today, ev­ery com­pany talks about two di­rec­tions – in­no­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity… these two words have be­come so repet­i­tive that some­times it al­most sounds like a slo­gan to pro­mote the com­pany.

Just how much does the in­dus­try re­ally un­der­stand these two con­cepts is my con­cern. Are com­pa­nies fool­ing them­selves or are the di­rec­tions backed by an hon­est in­tent to be dif­fer­ent?

Is in­no­va­tion about repli­cat­ing de­signs and con­cepts al­ready in the mar­ket or is there any ef­fort to cre­ate fresh ideas? How dif­fer­ent is in­no­va­tion from prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and R&D…or is there a dif­fer­ence?

Sim­i­larly, just how sus­tain­able are the di­rec­tions taken to be sus­tain­able in the eyes of the buyer? Can plant­ing a few trees in the fac­tory and giv­ing work­ers’ wages on time be con­sid­ered as sus­tain­able ini­tia­tives?

Af­ter talk­ing to many ex­porters, I have con­cluded that both these terms are loosly used and only few re­ally delve into the mean­ing and long-term im­pli­ca­tions of these widely used terms.

How many com­pa­nies can ac­tu­ally claim to be do­ing break­through in­no­va­tions that are truly dif­fer­ent… Some years ago, the prod­uct de­vel­op­ment head at one of the top ex­port houses shared with me that prod­uct de­vel­op­ment in In­dia is a farce, all we do is give vari­a­tions to de­signs shown by the buyer.

Af­ter many years, some­thing sim­i­lar was again said to me… it got me think­ing. Is the abil­ity to turn­around a pop­u­lar de­sign with a new twist, in­no­va­tion? Look at the cold-shoul­der trend which swept ev­ery mar­ket in the world… how dif­fer­ent can one re­ally be?

There is a logic in turn­ing around a pop­u­lar de­sign, print, tech­nique, sil­hou­ette and it is the com­mer­cial as­pect of do­ing any busi­ness. No one ex­pects a com­pany to be in­no­va­tive in the dic­tionary sense, be­cause in­no­va­tion comes from the masters of the trade… the es­tab­lished de­sign­ers and trend­set­ters… in­no­va­tion for oth­ers is how well they can in­ter­pret and present a vari­a­tion.

A vari­a­tion that will bring in busi­ness and re­sult in eco­nomic sus­te­nance, which is the essence of the next mis­in­ter­preted con­cept - sus­tain­abil­ity… how good would in­no­va­tion be if it did not sell!

Sus­tain­abil­ity is a huge con­cept and prac­ti­cally ev­ery com­pany has given it an in­di­vid­ual def­i­ni­tion, a def­i­ni­tion that can give the com­pany an im­age which is ac­cept­able to global busi­ness as be­ing a ‘con­cerned’ com­pany.

In my un­der­stand­ing, ‘true sus­tain­abil­ity’ is when good prac­tices that are en­vi­ron­ment and peo­ple-friendly are used to man­u­fac­ture prod­ucts that are again en­vi­ron­ment and peo­ple- friendly, and in the process the com­pany is able to make prof­its!

Sus­tain­abil­ity is not about spend­ing money but in­vest­ing in the fu­ture, the fu­ture of our gen­er­a­tions and ad­ding value to the lives of the peo­ple who walk to­gether in this jour­ney with us.

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