5 Ways Open-Innovation is Transforming Rural India

Smart Village Movement, March 1, 2023

Regia Kom & Anna Fitter  for Smart Village Movement in Alliance with Berkeley Haas

Open-Innovation is a term coined by Prof. Henry Chesbrough, an Innovation thought leader and Faculty Director  at the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation at UC Berkeley Haas. The term refers to the practice of collaborating with external parties to generate and implement new ideas, products, and services. Today, useful knowledge is widely distributed thanks to the connectivity provided by the internet and no company, no matter how big, can maximize the potential of innovation entirely on its own.

With Smart Village Movement’s Triple Helix model of economic development, its impact is only now being felt in rural India. This approach is transforming village economies in numerous ways by enabling entrepreneurs, start-ups, and established businesses to leverage the expertise and knowledge of others to solve complex problems, drive innovation, and spur growth. Let’s explore five ways Open-Innovation is transforming rural India.

  1. Boosting Entrepreneurship:

Open-Innovation is unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of rural India by providing entrepreneurs access to knowledge and resources necessary to develop innovative products and services. Collaborations with research institutions, government and industry have led to the emergence of new ventures such as Agri-tech start-ups. These ventures are leveraging technology to improve farming practices, boost productivity, and create new markets.

In the SVM ecosystem, our Farmer Development Centers are being operated by entrepreneurs who bring knowledge resources like Soil Testing, Digital Satellite Mapping, agri-inputs market linkages to local farmers, boosting their productivity and profits. Another example is the scaling of Gramin Pharmacy with the franchise model, thus boosting independent entrepreneurs in the state while providing the rural communities easy access to  life-saving drugs close to home.

  1. Accelerating Digital Transformation:

Open-Innovation is also driving the digital transformation of rural India by bridging the digital divide through collaborations with technology firms, government agencies, and non-profits. This provides access to digital tools and resources that enable rural communities to participate in the digital economy, access e-services, and benefit from digital health and education initiatives.

An example in healthcare is Apollo Telehealth’s participation in the SVM ecosystem with 5 clinics in rural Meghalaya. These clinics bring world class walk-in facilities with diagnostics and telemedicine that saves the community a lot of time and financial resources in accessing healthcare. Our Salesforce Trailblazer Community Labs piloted a STEM Innovation hub and open-format Makerspace with other NGO partners like Sauramandala Foundation, Project Defy and Ed Tech company Curiosity Gym. These organizations all worked together to bring tech skills and alternative learning to underserved communities and students in Meghalaya. Receiving approval from the State Government and validation from the community, these have now scaled to over 20 locations throughout the state as Chief Minister Youth Centres (CMYC) serving approximately 2000+ children.

  1. Empowering Women Entrepreneurs:

Open-Innovation is empowering women entrepreneurs in rural India by breaking down traditional barriers through collaborations with women-led start-ups, NGOs, and social enterprises. This provides access to training, resources, and networks that traditionally prevented women from starting and growing businesses in rural areas.

Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) is an Indian organization that supports women entrepreneurs through open innovation. It provides resources such as funding, networking opportunities, training programs, and market linkages. WEP collaborates with a variety of partners to create a supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs and promotes gender-inclusive entrepreneurship in India.

  1. Driving Sustainable Development:

This concept is driving sustainable development in rural India by promoting the adoption of environmentally friendly practices. Collaborations with NGOs, academic institutions, and industry are promoting sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and waste management practices in rural areas. This helps to reduce the carbon footprint of rural India and promote sustainable economic growth. For example, our Trailblazer Education Labs are Solar Powered by Hygge Energy and the renewal energy is stored in the microgrid and community sharing can be availed.

An important aspect of sustainable socio-economic development is also moving away from welfare economics and free handouts towards creating innovative and collaborative business models that all stakeholders like community, businesses, government and research institutes benefit from.  It has to be a win-win for all concerned to be concerned sustainable and successfully scale.

  1. Facilitating Knowledge Exchange:

Open-Innovation is facilitating knowledge exchange between rural communities and external stakeholders. Collaborations with universities, research institutions, and industry enable  communities to share their knowledge and expertise with others, while also learning from external stakeholders. This promotes knowledge transfer, enhances collaboration, and drives innovation in rural India. Smart Village Movement’s Digital Open Innovation Platform is free for all to use globally. Any rural grand challenge may be uploaded for students, researchers and industry experts to contribute solutions and ideas. Our Smart Village Projects and learnings are open-source, visible for all to view and comment and replicate our successful model for development in any other rural location, be it in Mexico, Gujarat or Africa.

In conclusion, as the practice of Open-Innovation and collaboration gains momentum, it has the potential to unlock new opportunities and spur growth in rural India. By embracing this concept, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and established businesses in rural India can leverage the knowledge and resources of others to create innovative solutions to complex challenges and drive economic development in the region.

ABOUT SMART VILLAGE MOVEMENT: The Smart Village Movement is a collaborative process facilitated by the SVM organization with the Berkeley-Haas Center of Growth Markets to create a Smart Village ecosystem. We partner with Government, Academia, Corporations, and Rural Communities to foster independence and sustainable rural development in Indian villages and other emerging markets. Our mission is to empower rural people through digital technologies and open innovation platforms to access global markets.