India is the top region for innovation in Asia, as per a recent report. This might seem like excellent news, till we ask how much of this innovation is truly Indian? According to the Patent Office, over 70% of the patents filed in the country are by MNCs. Indian companies and academia share the remaining 30%. Currently, we rank 66th on the Global Innovation Index list. That places us 41 places behind China.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) India filed 1,423 international patents in 2015. US filed 57,385, Japan 44,235, China 29,846 and South Korea 14,626. On a list of the world’s most innovative companies, only one Indian organisation Asian Paints ranks in the top 20 at #18. Hindustan Unilever comes in at #31. The top 10 list is dominated by the US.
Even successful Indian startups have based their business model on proven Western businesses, for example Flipkart on Amazon, Ola on Uber. Where is the true Indian innovation that takes the world by storm? If we are to make India the innovation destination of the world, we need to change the conversation around IPR, innovation and patents.
The time is now; as nations impose restrictions on immigration and movement of people, we can attract top global talent and nurture Indian talent with the right policies and frameworks.
Fortunately, the current government is putting some serious thought into modernising our age old IPR and patent policies. Notable amongst these are the Intellectual Property Policy and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s Draft Software Policy 2016. Other steps include establishment of the Ministry for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and Intellectual Property Facilitation Centres, introducing financial schemes and incubation programmes and increasing expenditure on infrastructure. Initiatives like Make in India will go a long way in encouraging desi companies to focus on out of the box thinking.
Inclusivity and ease of filing patents are critical areas of focus. Israel has one of the most innovation friendly policy environments in the world with provisions for tax exemption from 0-25% for home grown companies recognised as ‘approved industrial enterprises’. Israel also invests in R&D through international cooperation between different countries and regions that helps in establishing links between local companies, multinationals and academic institutions. China reduces patent fees by 75-80% for people who can’t afford it and has a patent fund to provide cash subsidies for patent applicants and patentees gratuitously.
We also need to create a symbiotic ecosystem with product and technology centric organisations, both domestic and MNCs, investing more in R&D and high value addition activities and publicising them. We can open our country to top talent from across the world and establish India as the sought after destination for innovation. We need to separate them from the regular IT and ITES category and encourage them to file patents in India for Indian innovation.
The software product policy should be more inclusive. National foundations like Aadhaar and India Stack are falling in place. Now is the time to focus on India being the origin of the innovation rather than the nationality of the investor or owner. This will funnel talent to the startup ecosystem which can then further innovate and create business opportunities.
Our startup ecosystem needs huge supply of global business skills and top notch technical talent. Global organisations with India based R&D centres have the ability to invest in creating such capability. Israel with its progressive policies is the best example of such a symbiotic ecosystem of rich MNC presence that helps create world class technology startups.
We taught the world the concept of jugaad and yet we lag when it comes to claiming it. After years of apathy, our country is finally poised to take charge of its IPR future with some progressive changes and policy introductions that are basic necessities to make India the innovation capital of the world.