Atanu Dey On India's Development

The World’s Most Innovative Companies

I received an email from a list that I am on. The basic tenor of the email was that India is somehow better than China. Well, I certainly hope so because I want India to be better than China, of course. But it was the gloating that made me uncomfortable. Here’s what that email was about.

There’s a special report in BusinessWeek about the world’s 50 most innovative companies.

The email helpfully listed the nationality of the top 50 innovative firms and their country wise distribution as:

USA 31
Britain 4
Germany 4
Japan 4
India 2
Canada 1
Finland 1
Netherlands 1
Singapore 1
South Korea 1
Total: 50

The email noted:

The two Indian industrial groups, included for the first time, are the Tatas and the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Group. The Tata group is ranked 6th and Reliance 19th.

The Tata group ranks well above IBM, BMW, Honda Motor, General Motors, Boeing, Audi and Daimler.

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance ranks above companies like Boeing, Exxon and BP.

The most interesting thing is that not a single Chinese company is considered innovative enough to make it to the list. [Emphasis in the original mail.]

Like I said, it was gloating over the fact that no Chinese corporations show in that list. Then I did a bit of reckoning. How innovative is India, based on the data provided in that article? To judge that, I thought that normalizing the data is important for purposes of comparison. I did the normalizing on population. For making the calculations easier, I assumed India’s population to be approximately 1 billion (a lower bound.) I consulted the CIA World Fact Book for the populations of the countries listed above. Here’s the list of countries and the normalized number of top innovative firms. Normalizing on the population I get a total of 808 firms which are distributed thus:

Singapore 215
Finland 200
USA 100
UK 68
Netherlands 60
South Korea 50
Germany 48
Canada 33
Japan 32
India 2
TOTAL: 808

Looking at those population-normalized numbers, you can see that Singapore and Finland are about one 100 times more innovative than India. The US is about 50 times, and so on. Yes, India has a score of 2 out of 808. So seen at this scale, 2 is not all that different from a score of 0, which is what China gets.

I am convinced that India fares poorly for the same reason that China does: there is no freedom in either of the two countries. Sure, India has political “freedom” — but you know what I think of India’s “Cargo Cult Democracy.” Without true economic freedom, a country is doomed to poverty. We need to learn that lesson soon.

A bit of introspection and a little bit less of gloating would serve us well.

  • http://www.sundarmail.com Sundar

    Your analysis based on population is somewhat skewed. Getting an entry itself provides some more confidence. There is lot more innovation happening in India that are not published, unlike US where most companies shout from the roof and get attention.

    It will change for better in the next five years.

    You have nicely summarised in the last line.

  • Vaidehi

    Precisely. You used the right word “..gloating “. I once bought some garments ( less expensive than Indian made) coloured ones like royal blue, emerald green, red..None of them bled. Even when washed along with other clothes. Whereas the most expensive Indian sarees and dresses bleed and continue to bleed with every successive wash.

    As a consumer, I would prefer the former.I read even in the manufacturing of glass bangles Chinese have come up with better methods. India harangues big about ” human rights”. What about young children employed in the making of firecrackers ? Somebody wrote in a Tamil magazine once , that bursting of firecrakers during Diwali was introduced by Babur :)

    About the violation of human rights of children in our schools and elsewhere , I suffer from a paucity of words. Wishing for the good of entire world with its flora and fauna is laudable . Not blustering sanctimoniously ….” india is no 1….”

  • Vaidehi

    The following by Amit Sengupta is worth a read before “gloating “.

    http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2006/11/651

  • jayant-manik

    Sorry Guys, but this effing list (like almost all other “lists”) is generated by the US media. I have been travelling to both countries since atleast 1978 (India since 1950!). There is no doubt in my mind that China has outstripped India in ALL fields – especially those that count. China today is 90% literate(!) as apposed to India’s 40%!
    Get off your collective effing butts and make things happen – positively.
    Meantime don’t gloat when you’ve got your data ass-faced..
    Cheers.

  • pankaj

    This list makes me remember only one english proverb regarding indian “innovation”. “The one eyed is the king in the land of blind”,i dont have much to say.have we made any products that has made a mark as far as brand name is concerned,even small nations like taiwan,south korea has world renowned brands build on true innovation.

  • Vaidehi

    I forgot to add the colourfast garments I washed were all made in China.

    Also, there is more solidarity among the Chinese. Certain hindus who live in/visit China categorically state it is far better than India. Take post harvest technology of fruits, herbs and vegetables for instance…China is far better than India. Today, India imports toovar dal from Myanmar.

    Pearl Buck’s novels would bring clarity to certain xenophobically jingoistic Indians.

  • lurker

    Come Folks, India is Great. We have the worlds largest group of corrupt and useless bureaucracy. How can we not be great.

    Arjun Singh is should be a world leader. He must be immediately awarded World Ratna.

  • Vaidehi

    India will tide over famine by gorging on cricket stumps, bats and scores in tandem with greedily ogling at filmi nautanki on TV.

    Who was he who coined the word ” useful idiots ” ?