Marico Innovation Foundation (MIF), the not-for-profit arm of FMCG giant Marico, is hosting its biannual Innovation for India Awards ceremony entirely online this week. Since its inception in 2003, MIF has launched several catalytic initiatives to help Indian innovators in the broader ecosystem.
The event was to be held on March 17 this year, but was postponed due to the pandemic and has been shifted entirely online. It will be held this week on October 9, from 5-6:30 pm (see registration link here). See also our coverage of the 2018 edition, interview with MIF head Priya Kapadia, and Innovate to Cultivate agri-initiative.
Since 2006, more than 60 organisations have won awards in categories of startup, business, social, global gamechanger, public services, and innovation in the business model, process or product (see Table 1). Winners have included startup founders, social entrepreneurs, business giants, and even government agencies.
MIF is expecting as many as 10,000 registrations this year for the online awards function. “We have really pulled in a huge positive direction,” said Harsh Mariwala, Founder of Marico Innovation Foundation and Chairman of Marico, in a chat with YourStory.
Awards 2020 edition
Until this year, the awards functions were attended in person by around a thousand curated guests, including budding entrepreneurs, impact investors, CXOs, and government officials. Winners this year are from categories like medical products, robotics, sports, and education.
Launched in 2006, the awards identify innovations that hold the potential to generate large scale impact. Innovations are recognised under three categories: business, startup, and social innovations. In addition to mentorship and industry connects, they also get personalised training on the art of storytelling.
Selection criteria require that the innovation should have exhibited results within the last 10 years. Innovations can include products, processes, services, operations, or substantial and unique improvement on existing offerings. The knowledge partner for due diligence and screening applications is Boston Consulting Group, India.
The business and startup jury consists of former CSIR DG RA Mashelkar; Ameera Shah, MD of Metropolis Healthcare; Amit Chandra, MD of Bain India; Gautam Mago, General Partner, A91; Rajeev Bakshi, FMCG industry veteran; Sandeep Singhal, Director, SEDEMAC Technologies; Sanjiv Kaul, Partner, ChrysCapital; Sasha Mirchandani, Founder of Kae Capital and Co-founder of Mumbai Angels; and Vani Kola, Founder of Kalaari Capital.
The jury for the social innovation awards includes RA Mashelkar; Amit Chandra; Anshu Gupta, Founder of Goonj; Anu Aga, former Chairperson of Thermax; Hari Menon, Country Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Kishore Mariwala, Director of HPFL; Kunal Upadhyay, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Bharat Innovation Fund; Paul Basil, Co-founder of Menterra; Ramji Raghavan, Founder of Agastya International Foundation; and Roopa Kudva, MD of Omidyar Network India.
Innovating to tackle the pandemic
This year, MIF recognised and awarded organisational innovation, as well as innovations to meet the pandemic crisis. From masks to PPEs, ventilators to respiratory equipment, a number of responses for testing and treatment were presented by Indian organisations as part of the Innovate2Beat COVID Grand Challenge in March, Mariwala explained.
MIF, A.T.E. Chandra Foundation, and Harsh Mariwala in his personal capacity together offered a total grant value of Rs. 2.5 crore. Winners also got access to business opportunities, mentorship, and guidance on business operations.
“Innovation is going to be very crucial to meet the COVID-19 challenge,” Mariwala emphasised. New opportunities for innovative products and services are opening up at corporate levels. For example, Marico came up with a product to clean vegetables and fruits, addressing citizen concerns over safety.
This was a brand new category, and new areas are opening up in immunity products as well, Mariwala said. Hygiene, immunity, and other health concerns will remain top priorities. The pandemic has increased the speed of innovation, he observed.
Winners of the COVID-19 challenge awards were Shreeyash Electro Medicals, KPIT Technologies, Nocca Robotics, CREA, and Saral Design Solutions. They came up with products like affordable ventilators, PPE kits, and surgical masks.
MIF and grassroots innovation
Given India’s vast socio-economic disparity, it is key to make innovation inclusive and impactful as well. “It is very relevant to promote innovation at grassroots levels,” Mariwala explained. Innovation can play a very important role in areas like education, healthcare, and agriculture where India has huge challenges
Innovations in these sectors impact productivity and performance. Examples include e-learning and e-consultation, and digital platforms and channels will accelerate innovation, he said, pointing to how smartphones have impacted our lives.
Innovation insights from winners
“Winners think differently. They have audacious goals,” Mariwala said, commenting on the winners of this year’s awards.
“Thinking differently by itself is not enough. You need to have proper execution,” he suggested. Successful innovators have a willingness to take the risk and an ability to handle setbacks. Passion and persistence are very important qualities.
“Innovation is on the top of the agenda for global CEOs and smaller companies,” Mariwala added. “It is a highly competitive market and you can’t sustain with me-too products. You have to develop products that are differentiated or are pioneering,” he emphasised. Unique services or technology upgradation are forms of innovation.
“A strong right to win helps you succeed in the market,” Mariwala advised. Innovators need the backing of a good team and the right organisational culture as well. “You need the talent to perfect the product and scale it up,” he said.
Videos and publications
Some of the past winners have showcased their achievements in curated TED-style speeches. Recent winners include unicorn Rivigo, which has uplifted lives of truck drivers through its ‘driver-relay’ model. Tonbo Imaging makes driver vision systems for autonomous vehicles.
Forus Health detects and prevents premature blindness in babies. Agastya International Foundation has revamped STEM education for needy schools. ERAM has developed unmanned, automated e-toilets. These are some of the winners from 2016 and 2018.
This year, the Jaico book 7 Sutras of Innovation by Nikhil Inamdar was released to record the journeys of eight winners of the MIF awards. The featured winners are Tonbo Imaging, Goonj, Rivigo, ISRO, Forus Health, Agastya International Foundation, The Better India, and St. Judes.
The road ahead
The MIF awards have an assessment process that is respected by the industry, with the jury meeting twice and backed by a knowledge partner who verifies all claims. The way the awards function is conducted, along with speakers and panels, has also been commended. “It is more a learning event than an awards function,” Mariwala explained.
MIF extends support to the winners after the awards process as well, he added. Acceleration programmes help them with execution capability or scaling up manufacturing capacity. Support is given by the Marico team and external consultants or ex-CEOs.
“Impact can only be created if you are able to scale up your innovation,” Mariwala signs off.
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