TECH TALK: Innovation: Innovation Examples

Innovations drive the engine of growth forward, though not all innovations may result in commercial success. Innovation is necessary to get away from the monotony of sameness.

Witness prime-time Indian Television. A year ago, Star TV, lagging behind Zee and Sony, launched a set of new programmes in the 9 pm – 11 pm band: Kaun Banega Crorepati and two daily soaps from Balaji Telefilms (Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyu Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi). KBC as a game show was high risk and offering an opportunity to win an unheard amount of prize money (besides, of course, the opportunity to meet with Super Star Amitabh Bachchan). Star backed it with a huge amount of advertising also. The move succeeded and how! It was different from the regular fare viewers in India were used to on TV.

Sticking with TV for another moment, an amazingly simple idea (in the US) has been the VCR-plus. It consists of a remote for the VCR with a series of numbers for each TV programme. The numbers are published in the newspapers along with the TV schedule. To record a programme, you simply type in the number. This makes recording TV programmes a breeze (no fidgeting with the VCR controls). The company (Gemplus) did incredibly well, and leveraged its position to merge with Murdoch’s TV Guide in the US.

A possible successor to the TV programme recording problem now comes in the form of personal recorders from companies like TiVo. They store the programming on disk, so you can watch whenever you want and more interestingly, easily skip over ads.

The result of this innovation: a potential revolution (and disruption) in the economics of the TV industry which relies largely on ad revenues. Says Kevin Werbach in an article on “The Webification of TV”:

My own experience since I got a TiVo is typical of every other subscriber I’ve spoken with. To put it simply, I watch more TV now, but fewer commercials. Furthermore, I have no sense of when and on what channel a program originally aired. Take those usage patterns and extend them to tens of millions of homes–which will happen as the devices and services become more affordable–and broadcast industry economics no longer add up.

Innovation also creates that “Wish I had thought of it” feeling. We have had this sentiment echoed many times when people look at It is a simple concept – that of news aggregation on a single page. But when it was launched in 1997, it went against the prevalent notions at that time of (a) short Web pages (b) don’t send people to other people’s sites (c) unique content creation.

Witness also the Instant Messaging revolution wrought about by AOL’s Instant Messenger and ICQ – email has been around for more than 3 decades. What ICQ brought about was the concept of “presence” – so that you can be notified when your buddies are online. Communications made easier!!

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.