Naveen Lakkur, a serial entrepreneur turned Innovation coach shares his experience with XEDGlobal on an exclusive interview on the need for training and development in the business world.In his professional career spanning 25+ years in the industry worldwide, he has co-founded several innovative companies. He has also been a catalyst for 250+ ideas to have become commercial realities.

India is on a fast track towards being a predominantly startup nation. How do training and development contribute to this?

According to a NASSCOM report, India has the world's 3rd largest startup base. There are now over 5,000 startups in India that are less than five years old; over 1,000 new startups were added over the last year. That being said, this is just the beginning, and India has a lot more potential. Training and development are surefire ways to accelerate this growth.

While it is true that India is on a fast track towards a startup nation, the mortality rate of startups is 35% each year. Did you know that globally only 9% of startups survived and 1% went on to become an enterprise? Failure is part and parcel of the startup game. Majority of the startups in India belong to first generation entrepreneurs who are good at what they do and very ambitious. But they need to learn ways to think globally and fail smartly. You learn from your mistakes, but you can it commit all the mistakes yourself to learn.

As a mentor at Founder Institute, one of the world largest premium startup accelerator, I can say that training and development have helped entrepreneurs launch meaningful and enduring companies, build innovative solutions, increase the survival of startups, take them global. It may just accelerate India into being the top startup nation. 

Why are Indian companies struggling to innovate effectively? Do you think executive courses can help them?

While we’ve been innovative, our thinking is more tactical. The current academic approach does not enable people in India for systemic thinking. ‘Human Capital’ is the biggest capital Indian companies have and that’s the costliest capital. Companies can capitalise the human asset.

Also,Innovation has become a core competency today. Our learning methods and methodologies should shift to experiential learning,  augmented learning and creative learning to nurture the inner potential to innovate which is there in every one of us, which can be applied to every job, every day. Executive courses should be designed to help executives transform their thinking and create a powerful vision that is relevant to today’s dynamic global environment. They should be a part of companies’ strategy which can help amplify business results.

What are the key benefits innovation centres can offer?

Innovation centres are meant to provide an ecosystem of support for innovations. The key 5 benefits are:
•    Help build competency to innovate by building awareness, create exposure, conduct training programmes 
•    Provide best practices and process definitions
•    Provide networking opportunities and enable connections to subject matter experts, mentors, advisors
•    Be the “GoTo” for market support
•    Offer support for funding

Could you give us an example of your experience where innovation has been particularly successful?

While there are many, I will share one in which I was involved in the innovation. During my stint as CEO at Compassites Software Solutions, we were recognised for nurturing ideas and building technology-enabled solutions. I used to lead the solution team. An American company specialised in authentication solutions identified a problem in the tobacco industry. Passive print technique was used as a practice for marking tax paid status and the tax structure was different from state to state.

The challenge with this system was that the cross-border movement of unauthorised products resulted in revenue loss to the state and left large quantum of monies unaccounted. Together we came up with the digital tax stamp methodology, using which the field inspector with a mobile device could scan the code on the pack and avail all details of the pack - its origin, where it supposed to be sold, tax paid or not, etc. This  “track and trace” solution not only redefined the process in the tobacco industry but also opened up possibilities in various other markets and today, it is implemented in several industry verticals and in several regions around the world. 

Is there a difference in how you would approach innovation for a global organisation, and for an Indian one?

Yes, there is a difference in the market fit is very important for innovation. Typically, when people talk about innovation, they have a product in mind. Seldom do they consider other domains such as process, policy, the way it is marketed, the way it is used, etc.India is known for being a service industry and there is a huge possibility to productise our services. For example, the packages in hospitals for health checkups are being productised - now, that innovation.

The need and the timing are right for product innovation to take place in India. So far, we have been good at bringing global innovations to India; now the time is right for India to innovate for the world. Ten Years of Global Innovation Index data clearly reveal India is improving, but also that it is still some way from joining the big league of innovative nations. Today technology has become a disruptor and connectivity is like never before - it is the right time to take Indian innovation to global heights. History shows that the country that innovates, leads... 

As a leadership coach, what areas of management development do you think will require more attention in the future?

In every person lies the potential to innovate; all you need is a platform to nurture that potential. Nurturing new age leadership means nurturing innovation, intrapreneurship, and entrepreneurship. An industry study by BCG, IBM and KPMG show that the top skills requirements in the companies are creativity, integrity and innovation as core work culture. These are the areas of focus for management to develop for their organisations.

What are some of the biggest challenges in teaching or training on a subject like ‘Leadership’ or ‘Innovation’?

The biggest challenge today is that leadership and innovation are buzzwords and also overused words. Innovation has become a necessity, at the same time the concept is so vague in the minds of individuals.What is required is for people coming to a common innovation ground, unlearn a little, be willing to learn new concepts and find opportunities to apply the concepts. Both leadership and innovation are topics that are not just conceptual, but result- oriented. It should be able to create a positive impact, be measurable and scalable, and as a result enable a holistic approach towards new initiatives. Then ‘Leadership’ and ‘Innovation’ will show up as great inseparable twins.