By Rich Lesser of the Boston Consulting Group
Once the province of technology and pharmaceutical companies, innovation is rapidly moving up the agenda of CEOs throughout the global economy. “Meeting the Innovation Imperative” is the key theme at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Chinese seaport city of Dalian. Here, at the Dalian Convention centre – whose sleek design and smart use of new technology make an appropriate setting – more than 1,600 top executives from 90 countries have been thinking through the implications. With global competition fiercer than ever, leaders of countries and companies have no option but to employ an innovation-driven strategy: to harness technological, economic and social shifts and create an environment conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation.
Kenya’s two biggest banks by market capitalisation, Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), both reported solid full year earnings on Thursday, underlining strong growth potential for financial services in east Africa’s largest economy.
Emerging European economies – particularly the four core central European states of Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – must invest more in education and innovation if they are to bring their living standards closer to those of their west European neighbours.
A missed call from a friend is a coded request for you to ring back. From a daughter, a missed call could be an agreed signal that she is home safely. From a dabbawalla it means he’s arrived with your lunch.
This costless method of communication is used like a modern day Morse Code in India. And businesses are catching on – by some estimates, India’s missed call business is worth Rs5bn ($94m).
Imagine an app that talks you through your yoga routine. Or an app that allows you to unlock your car, start the engine and turn on the air-conditioning remotely.
These are just two ideas developed by young south Indian entrepreneurs for the new BlackBerry 10, which launches this week.
China’s “little Emperors” have got a lot of bad press in the 30-odd years since Mao Zedong created a generation of pampered and pilloried only children with the “one child policy”. It did not help that KFC, the Western fast food behemoth, opened its first restaurant in China soon afterwards, helping plump up the little darlings to the point where obesity is a problem for children whose parents and grandparents lived through famine.
But now an Australian study has even less nice to say about the generation that dominates China’s labour force. It says the one-child policy has created a generation of risk avoiders. Hardly good news for Beijing’s plan to create an innovation nation by producing millions of Chinese replicas of Steve Jobs.
When Slovene partisan fighters needed skis to battle the occupying Nazi forces in World War II, there was but one solution: make them themselves, secretly, from wood. Some 70 years later, as a result of this initial, brave determination, the village of Begunje, nestled in the Alpine foothills about 35 miles north-west of Ljubljana, is the unlikely setting for the world’s largest ski plant.
Elan, the Slovene winter-sports company, produces 500,000 pairs of skis annually in Begunje, roughly one in seven of all skis worldwide – with 300,000, or 8.5 per cent of the global market, under its own name.
By Zoltán Cséfalvay of Hungary’s economy ministry
Over the past fortnight, Budapest has been abuzz with talk about research and innovation.
The second annual international, high-level Conference on Cyberspace took place in the Hungarian capital at the beginning of October, focusing on the increasingly critical issue of digital security. From the host country, Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, stressed the value of cyberspace as a ‘world without walls’, where freedom could flourish.
Lenovo may be best known for its PC division, part of which came from its purchase of an IBM unit a few years back. It recently overtook Dell to become the world’s number one in the PC market.
But, to help keep up in a world increasingly focused on mobile devices, the company is building a major new facility for smartphones and tablets. And it’s doing it in central China.
Does Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Russia’s privatization programme in the early 1990s, have the answer to the dilemma facing Russia now: how best to diversify its raw materials economy into one driven by innovations?
As head of Rusnano, the state corporation attempting to spearhead that leap, Chubais, perhaps not surprisingly, seems to have undergone an evolution of his own. He now sounds much more positive about the role of the state than he would have done nearly 20 years ago when as a free marketeer he helped dismantle the command economy. Today he defends the state capitalist theses of Vladimir Putin who wrote this week that only the state corporations can lead Russia into an innovative future.
Is China innovating? As China’s size has come to dominate the world in so many areas and the country seeks to match that weight and transform from a low-cost manufacturer to a creator of things, that question has often been asked.
McKinsey has come up with an interesting new report that jumps beyond this question. Under the headline “How China is innovating”, the consultancy postulates that innovation is happening – it’s just different from what multinationals might be used to from back home.