Innovation Systems in India: A Polysemic Approach to Innovation
Innovation in India is seen not as a top-down activity but as a participative, interactive and dialectical interface. The democratic genius of the innovation system lies in the fact that different communities are subject not only to multiple histories but they also live in different times. Innovation connects these different times and contexts of knowledge into a coherent narrative while letting each group retain its context of culture, livelihood and meanings. This paper attempts to move beyond the standard ideas of innovation theory which appear linear and mono-paradigmatic towards a cross-cultural discourse taking place in multiple times. It offers to deduce innovation not just as a community or organizational activity but also as an interaction of sub-cultures with demands on the democratic framework in India. It tries to understand the future that Internet and other globalization processes would bring by evaluating the micro-worlds of Rural India. It incorporates the concepts of customization, translation and indigenization being practiced in India as a theory for studying the impact of personalization of products in the global market. Innovation connects expert-led systems identifying need and creating a product to people-centric grass-root subsistence level methods of coping. These two systems operate exclusively until they are brought together under the paradigm of User-led Innovation. The paper provides case studies of grass-root level innovation in India encompassing the notion of coping, Jugaad (the bricoleur's approach) and the middleman as a fixer. It constructs a dialectic of problem solving methodologies traversing the technical, the social and their hybrids. These methods should not be seen as a mono-paradigmatic site of improvisation, but as polysemic in their implications. What we wish to establish is that each problem-solving technique is an inclusive knowledge network similar in structure but different in style. Each does not substitute for the other, each supplements the other. No story is complete without the presence of all.
Keywords: Innovation Systems, Trandisciplinary Knowledge, Grassroots Innovation
Research Engineer, Information and Communication Technology, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology
Contract Research Developer, Advanced Development and Prototyping, Microsoft Research