By Joanna Chataway, Innogen Co-Director
There was an interesting article recently in The Economist entitled 'Lessons from a Frugal Innovator' (16.04.09). The basic argument is that in the healthcare sector, Indian companies are responding with new products and efficient delivery systems to cost conscious national consumers. In some cases this is leading to superior treatment than can be found in the inefficient West.
This relates to arguments put forward in a new Innogen working paper, 'Below the Radar: What does innovation in the Asian Driver Economies have to offer other low income countries?' In that working paper we suggest that needs of poor consumers in low income contexts might constitute 'disruptive markets' which could in the end have radical implications for innovation trajectories. Our argument is that the needs of these consumers are often missed entirely by companies based in the West (thus below the radar...) and in any case the business models these companies use are inappropriate for addressing the needs of this type of consumer and user. Companies in India and China may be able to respond to poor peoples' needs more effectively and set in motion widespread change in the rate and direction of innovation in different economic sectors.
We would welcome feedback and thoughts.