June 12, 2024
June 12, 2024
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The game of entrepreneurship is changing in India: Sharad Sharma

Tenzin Norzom

The entrepreneurship scene in India is moving away from copycat innovation to ‘real innovation for Bharat,’ said Sharad Sharma, Co-founder of tech think tank iSPIRT Foundation. He was speaking at the third edition of FoundersFirst, a LetsVenture conclave for founders and startup operators

The new-age entrepreneurs are driving such innovation on the back of combinatorial innovation which refers to the practice of leveraging different parts of digital innovation and trends to uncover new value and opportunities. Sharad urged entrepreneurs to focus on deeptech research and innovation on top of combinatorial innovation – innovation achieved by combining different digital innovations.  

One of the first examples of championing combinatorial innovation is the iPhone. He highlights that while there was no fundamentally new technology behind them, Apple had put things together in a way no other phone-makers did. 

However, they realized that there’s no moat in combinatorial innovation alone. That is when Apple turned to Stanford University to conduct research in deeptech innovation. 

"When the iPhone first came out, it could only fit three to four chips. With Stanford, they managed to create a bigger chip size that could do 20 RF filters at the time and built the first 'world phone' and nobody could copy it for four years,” he told a room full of entrepreneurs. That provided them with a competitive advantage and made them a valuable company. 

To become a valuable company, entrepreneurs in India should also strive to own a building block in the value chain of their business to own a profit pool in a manner competitors cannot. For that to happen, partnership for research and development is key. 

However, while there are attempts made to enable the research ecosystem, Sharad believes that there is a serious lack of domestic research and development infrastructure in India. 

India chose not to go for the American system to use universities as public infrastructure for research and build them as teaching universities. Turning them around now would be difficult. 

Last year, the government of India decided to create a national research foundation for basic research and earmarked Rs 100,000 Cr for industry-directed private research. 

Such initiatives would enable combinatorial innovation companies to add a layer of deep innovation and become valuable companies in the future. For entrepreneurs in India, the wide range of data that is publicly available and the size of the market are in their favour.

Tenzin Norzom
FoundersFirst 2024

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