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Global Innovation - Part I

| On 05, Jan 2008

Praveen Gupta

Last month I had an opportunity to speak on innovation at the IIT Chicago’s Bangalore campus. It is amazing to see talk and walk going on in this area there. Then I visited Prakash Kappoth, Senior Manager – Knowledge Management, whom I met at RealInnovation and Raj Datta, Chief Knowledge Officer, both at MindTree Consulting to share lessons in innovation. Interestingly, MindTree has been practicing innovation methods, innovation community, and social networks already in India. From our brief discussion, it appears that MindTree has implemented elements of the innovation process including the organization, technology infrastructure, knowledge sharing, idea management, and recognition and reward.


Innovation Chat with a CEO


Continuing my innovation exploration, I had an opportunity to chat with Ashok Chaturvedi, the founder Chairman and Managing Director (CMD equivalent of CEO) of The Flex Group (www.uflexltd.com), a multi-national packaging company based in India, exporting films, packages, and laminates to about 90 countries, and expanding operations globally.


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Ashok Chaturvedi, CMD, UFLEX Limited                


Letting my jetlag be responsible for omissions, the following Q&A represents what I could capture during our short interview session:


Q. What does innovation mean to you?


A. In flexible packaging, innovation means gain market share and improve bottom line by creating new packages, and is all about creating uniqueness coupled with ability to capture that uniqueness. We create new packages which customers find it better than found anywhere, and these are difficult to replicate. Innovation includes technology, material processing, and design. We have ignored our intellectual property earlier, but now we are patenting our packaging solutions going forward.


Q. What is your strategic commitment to innovation?


A. I head our innovation team and strongly involve for developing new products. There is a team of key individuals focusing on innovation. Innovation does not mean cost cutting exercises. I do not believe cost cutting is the same as innovation. To me, innovation means new products that drive process and technology innovations.  For example, P&G requested an innovative package to improve an existing package for better shelf space utilization. We were able to develop a flexible packaging that highlights the product, takes less shelf space, and appealing to the customer.


Q. How satisfied are you with returns on innovation?


A. We are very happy with our strategic innovation effort.  Innovation is the only way to keep the bottom line good, and market share grow. Without innovation manufacturing will become a rote activity, and lose its momentum and margin. Innovation always keeps you younger. With innovation we can protect the price, and serve our customers better.


Q. How is innovation managed?


A. As I mentioned earlier, I am heading the R&D division in Flexible packaging division. My job is not just to manage finance, or make key decisions. My primary job is to drive innovation. I am developing a team of innovators in flexible packaging. The team is expected to produce many innovative solutions that will be commercialized in 2009. The company profile will change in 2010. Last year we introduced nine new products scheduled for introduction in the next 18 months. We recently received a global patent for slider head zipper assembly with laser score and a metallic barrier.


Q. How is innovation rewarded at UFLEX?


A. We are paid to innovate, it is our job.