Nurturing innovation

Management education has found a new way to foster entrepreneurship in rural India. CRICKET, a concept developed by a Ghaziabad based management institute is catching up fast nationwide to support rural innovative minds.
Nurturing innovation

One will wonder how CRICKET will help in capacity building of micro, small and medium enterprises? But this has become possible due to the efforts of IMT Ghaziabad’s faculty members who have developed Centre for Rural Innovation, Capacity Building, Knowledge Management, Entrepreneurship and Technology (CRICKET) that provides an interactive platform to both students as well as ‘rural innovative minds’ to exchange and enrich their knowledge.

According to Dr. Surinder Batra, who heads the CRICKET centre for the B-School, “CRICKET was formed at IMT as a centre dedicated to action research in specified areas to provide a multi-dimensional platform to faculty and students.” On the objective behind the formation of this model, he adds, “The key target groups of CRICKET are rural innovators, micro- and small enterprises and social entrepreneurs. Our faculty takes up action research projects to support these target groups in building their capacity for managing challenges of their businesses, irrespective of their size.”
The focus of the model is at vital but often neglected segments of the Indian society, such as rural innovators and micro- and small enterprises and provide them professional guidance in managing the commercial aspects of their innovations through support in market research. The approach which is adopted is to learn trough such engaging projects and then process the findings into action research.

Rural India is full of innovative minds but lack of education and money derail many ambitious and realistic projects. In such a scenario, the need was being felt for long that people from urban areas should share their knowledge and skills with the rural masses, so that they can be empowered in terms of knowledge and wealth. CRICKET is one such effort from a management institution that focuses on nurturing entrepreneurship among the rural poor.

The very idea behind the formation of the centre is to engage faculty and students to go for ‘action research’. Students and faculty, in the recent months have conducted various studies to enrich their knowledge on rural India and in return, they are guiding ‘innovative minds’ to polish their entrepreneurial skills. On the innovation, Dr. Batra shares more, “Innovation is an outcome of the mental attitude. We facilitate our students in developing an attitude towards innovation through open learning, with lot of space for creativity.” “Getting them engaged in field-based projects helps in further fostering their innovativeness. The students in turn develop sensitivity to identifying, appreciating and supporting innovations by the target groups” he adds further. This approach helps students as well as rural masses to interact with each other at various stages and help them in fostering values and skills.

The centre was formed in September 2011 and since its inception days is actively involved at the grassroots level research to promote and support to the innovators at the hinterland. On the question of supporting grassroot innovations Dr. Batra responds, “Students collaborate with faculty and wherever necessary with other stakeholders to provide the necessary support to the targeted innovators.” On the hurdles that rural innovators face, Dr. Batra shares his views, “Most of the innovators are a genius lot. They come out with products based on innovative ideas which have a high degree of relevance for the market demand that their innovations can cater to.”

“However, what these innovators typically lack is their ability to commercialise their products and convert them into viable business propositions. They often lack basic management skills such as finance and marketing” he further adds. Continuing the concept of ‘action research’ a research team from CRICKET comprising three faculty members and 10 PGDM students undertook an extensive field study in Bahraich district of UP as part of an initiative to plan implementation of PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) in greenfield areas. According to Dr. Batra, the objectives of the study were to map the socio-economic profile of selected villages; assess the state of their physical, electronic knowledge and economic connectivity; identify key gaps in the services needed at local level; identify existing local resources which can be harnessed for setting up new enterprises; and recommend enterprises that can be established in the area with the existing resources and in alignment with the PURA conceptual model.

The group has also done a study on ‘last mile coverage of national brands of packaged goods in the rural areas’. Under the project a team comprising four faculty members and eight students undertook a study in the Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh to explore the underlying factors influencing the last mile coverage of national brands of packaged goods in the rural areas. The study was aimed at identifying whether any pattern exists in the awareness, usage and availability of packaged goods in the villages. A pilot study helped in identifying brands available, key demographic variables and quantification of the last mile coverage. 28 categories of packaged goods, divided into three product groups, namely, food and beverages, household items and personal care items, were selected.

The study indicated that the rural and urban markets have a strong overlap in consumption patterns and preferences, and it makes good sense for companies to introduce the so-called urban products to rural areas. The brands need to intensify in the rural areas, both in terms of frequency and appeal, and if the communication objectives of the brands are achieved, consumption would follow. The study provided important lessons into the psyche of rural consumers and a good learning case from the perspective of rural marketing.

As Prof Anil Gupta, founder of Honey Bee Network says, “Even in most difficult conditions people can create beauty. When we take knowledge from one community or one person, we should give it to another community. We should cross-pollinate ideas.” Rural India is full of creative people and the need is to identify and help them in harnessing their entrepreneurship skills through knowledge sharing. “People are not at the bottom of innovation pyramid, they are not at the bottom of ethical pyramid. They are only at the bottom of economic pyramid” says Prof. Anil Gupta. Such initiatives are appreciable and should be adopted by various other management institutions so that more and more people from rural India can be economically empowered.

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