“Normally, copyrights do not imply right to copy”, quipped an eminent medical speaker while addressing a group of Indian medical professionals. Although, he used the phrase in a context that was meant to encourage Indian clinicians to follow internationally acclaimed treatment guidelines, what struck me and many in the audience was the subtle dig that he took at the “great Indian copy machine”. Innovator pharmaceutical companies have always cited ‘unstable IPR scenario’ as a reason why they didn’t look at India as a growth driving market despite its market size and thriving local industry.
Now, an article titled, How GE is Disrupting Itself, published in Harvard Business Review, October 2009 takes a refreshing new look at the vast opportunity that is India. Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s CEO along with Profs. Govindarajan and Trimble provide wonderful insight on how big conglomerates can look at India [and other countries] as growth driving opportunities through ‘reverse innovation’. What the authors means is that GE discovered that new ideas and opportunities lie in countries and markets that were hitherto thought of as underdeveloped. They found opportunities to create products at price points for market segments that were not only relevant to the local market and hence revenue generators, but more importantly, opened up new opportunities even in developed markets where company growth was stagnating.
From a pharmaceutical industry perspective, companies that always thought of India as masters of reverse engineering can now begin to look at India as a fertile market for reverse innovation!