The excellent Schumpeter column in The Economist covers the Indian model of innovation, which contrasts with the Brazilian model according to a column on Brazil just weeks later.
“Companies in India are challenging American ones in an area that they have long considered their own—innovation. The Boston Consulting Group’s 2010 survey of innovation notes that the number of American companies on its list of top innovators is declining while the number of Indian companies is rising. It also points out that the Indian firms place a higher value on innovation than the American companies. Most strikingly, Indian companies have produced a new type of innovation, variously dubbed “frugal”, “reverse” and “Gandhian”. The essence is to reduce the price of a product or service by a breathtaking amount—80% rather than 10%—by removing unnecessary bells and whistles. Tata Motors is selling its “people’s car” for $3,000; GE’s Indian arm offers a medical ECG machine for $400; Bharat Biotech sells a single dose of its hepatitis B vaccine for 20 cents and Bharti Airtel provides one of the cheapest wireless telephone services in the world. These frugal products are likely to disrupt established Western companies (including GE itself) by forcing them to engage in a bloody price war.”