Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Making Engines AND Engineers

While sitting in a discussion on competitive advantage of nations, a thought crossed my mind “Japan makes engines, India makes engineers”. I realized, how the ‘Education and Opportunity’ landscape in India groomed world-class minds and yet we still had a long way to go before we could provide an ecosystem that could utilize many of the talented minds from India. Once we could achieve this, we would be able to develop breakthrough innovations and take them to the world rather than watch talented Indian minds work on breakthrough innovations for developed nations.

Arguably a large proportion of best Indian brains leave India in search of better opportunities. Iconic institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) have made a name for themselves and so have the professionals who have studied here. So, when I walked into a Television section of an electronics chain store in Chengdu (Central China), I was pleasantly surprised to discover THTF the brand name on one of the flat panel televisions on display. THTF is TsingHua TongFeng Electronics. Not just the name sound similar to TsingHua University, Beijing (consider it to be the the IIT Kanpur/IIT Mumbai of China) - it actually is a brand started by an entrepreneur who is a alumnus TsingHua University!

I realized that there could potentially be a big opportunity here. Although Hindu mythology does talk about not mixing Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge) with Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) thus keeping education and accumulation of wealth apart. However, when I see the THTF brand, I cannot help but visualize the opportunity for some of the iconic educational institutions in India. They could perhaps give even more to the society, by leveraging their name and expertise to create opportunities for young minds to develop products and services that can also be marketed under their brands. Be it IIT, IIM or IISc (Indian Institute of Science). What can be a better Venture Capital (VC) fund or a Technology Startup than the one that can be mentored by our own experienced professors and lead by bright students while being supported by business leaders and investors!
Visualize consumer electronics brand supported by IITs displayed next to names like Sony, Sharp or Apple.

Engineers innovate & innovations rule the business world – there is no reason why we can’t better realize the hidden potential of the Indian innovation engine by leveraging the esteemed marques in the education arena!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Car is now a Gadget – 100%?

Look at these messages for some of the newer models of cars:

Get the link?

Bhp and cc and cylinders and turning radius and torque and 0 to 60 in xyz secs and etc and ect. Well, most of the cars used to be marketed around these - one way or the other. But what I see now, especially for some of the newer models of middle to high-end cars is very different. The story seems to be shifting from the mechanical details under the hood to the electronics inside the cabin. Be it GPS or Cruise control, or Audio systems, or electronically controlled comfort features, or communication features linked with inbuilt hands free technologies etc.

Car makers have usually talked about features like power, handling, safety, fuel economy, cost of ownership. Then why this change?
Are people not looking for superior car engines anymore?
Have we hit a ceiling in development of newer car engines?
Do we not have any more stories from the mechanical engineering side of building good cars?
Is the future of car innovation linked with electronics than the mechanics of car building?
Is hardware going to give way to software even in automotive engineering? (Mobile phone making is the other business that is witnessing this change!)
At least for the developed economies of the word, it might not be inaccurate to say that people have had their fill of powerful cars and thus carmakers are focusing on other things that can turn the buyer on.
This shift in focus of innovation could also be due to the fact that innovating in the electricals, electronics, and software aspects of the automobile is relatively less capital intensive (“get the microprocessor, the audio system and the GPS in – these are relatively more readily available technologies with relatively more predictable consumer response.”)
Also, these are potentially more visible enhancements for the driver than the subtleties of superior car handling which are arguably already perceived to be ‘good enough’ - at least among the mid priced and premium cars.

I can foresee the innovation in mid and high-end passenger cars to follow along this trend up until the time when there is a breakthrough innovation in automotive engineering that brings the focus back to under the hood changes, which can be felt inside the cabin too!