Definitely, getting the ‘new idea’ is the first step in innovating existing business or creating new businesses and certainly, I do not want to undermine the ‘ability’ to generate new ideas. But, generating ideas is easy – the real challenge is in turning them into ‘real’ business options. And, I believe, tracing an idea’s journey to success, requires a start-up specialist. The trouble begins when you start acting on the ‘new’ idea. A lot of management believe that the execution and implementation would not be a trouble, now that they have an idea. But, that’s not true at all!
I would like to highlight my own experience as an example – when we started the ‘new’ start-up business of ‘printer consumables’ distribution of Hewlett Packard in Kores India. The first ‘idea’ that came to my mind was to create awareness of our new business activity in the corporate segment. So, the effort was to make sure we did some business asap but then, we were pitted against established distributors like Godrej Tech Pacific and Redington India, who were already in business for more than 5 years. I suggested we form a consumables ‘triangle’ : Kores as Supplier – specific consumables dealer – corporate end user : and send out e mailers to selected large corporate companies and ensure we get positive response from them and then, tie up the corporate supplies with consumables’ dealers who were already buying from us. This way, I could create loyalty of existing dealers as well as generate new dealers in the HP business. This was a ‘different’ idea not tried out earlier ( it is another thing that HP devised ‘corporate engagement’ program based on this idea to create MVC – Most valued customers – and cornered lot of business in a tight competitive ‘consumables’ market)…….but the ‘idea’ was executed or implemented by having many meetings with existing as well as promising ‘new’ kores stationery dealers. Over the next 18 months, the market size expanded by 30% as a result of implementation of an idea. It became a real business option and brought in loads of significant new business, sustained ‘good’ profits to HP and a ‘new’ market to us.
New Ideas are required all the time in a competitive and dynamic market. In the FMCG segment, ideas are required all the time to retain or create ‘Top of the mind’ market share. There are many ‘product’ variants bearing different brand names with same result and ‘consumerism’ is a well spread out action in markets that are very dynamic and ‘loyalty’ is difficult to earn in such markets. Investment in new ideas is also fraught with its own set of challenges in house too! After all, the profitability of the ‘core business’ of the company will be impacted – as it pours money into the new business venture and there is no guarantee whether the new venture will succeed or not. In such situations, it becomes necessary to be very ‘humble’ to implement new ideas. And, many will try to discourage, but faith and courage are required besides capability to move on and implement new ideas.
In my experience, I found Hewlett Packard as a company – very receptive to new ideas. In effect, it did benefit in the process – as it accepted many ideas of a start-up business like ours in Kores India. As ‘out of the box thinking’ meetings as well as brainstorming sessions are in vogue in most companies nowadays, the term ‘innovation’ jargon sways many. Let us understand that the short-term results in innovation are not so important when compared to long-term vision. Hence, once should be prudent in spending or utilising ‘scarce’ resources available in a start-up business. Though the experience is what matters to take a start-up business to become a successful venture, it is necessary to adopt new ideas and not adopt the same as did in our past experience. What has worked earlier may not necessarily work now!
Finally, it is a ‘group effort’ – ideally, there should be few ‘old timers’ in the team to ‘Guide’, and enthusiastic thinkers, self-initiated performers, die-hard optimists and an accommodative management to turn new ideas into real business options.