The Indian Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (IISE), an innovative concept to promote green technology and support entrepreneurs in building sustainable businesses, has taken shape in Bangalore. It is promoted by some well-known local and global personalities and is set to launch its postgraduate certificate program in sustainable enterprise in the near future.
Key members of the institute are Stuart L Hart, Premchandra Sagar, Shekar Narsimhan and K S Jairaj. Hart is a senior professor at Cornell University and is famous for co-authoring the seminal ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ with C K Prahalad. Sagar runs the Dayanand Sagar Group of Institutions, Narsimhan is a US-based investment banker and serial entrepreneur and Jairaj a former well-known bureaucrat from Bangalore.
Hart describes the reason for creating IISE with “Increasingly, competitive success will hinge on driving innovation from the bottom up, by incubating new, clean technologies and business models, starting in the underserved space at the base of work income pyramid”. Further he states that in order to serve the BoP sustainably, leapfrog green invention is crucial. This Green Leap innovation might then trickle up to the top of the pyramid, presenting growth and profit opportunities, a trend called reverse innovation.
The goal of IISE is to increase the rate of Green Leap innovation through new ventures and corporate initiatives. In order to be able to achieve this, IISE has successfully assembled an ecosystem including an incubator, education platform, technology bank, investment fund, cluster (social) network, field support system and learning laboratory. The concept of IISE also moves away from a focus on business literacy, an emphasis on functional core material and classroom-based instruction. Instead, the new program focuses on next-generation knowledge, skills and capabilities crucial to successfully incubating clean technologies in underserved communities.
The six premises of the venture
The concept of co-creation builds on the understanding that in order to succeed at the BoP, it is critical to work closely and directly with people from within the underserved communities to co-create fortune at the base of the pyramid
2) Leapfrog Green Innovation
In the past, many BoP venues simply adapted environmentally unsustainable products and services to sell to the poor and aspiring middle-classes. However, this path will inevitably lead to environmental oblivion. Therefore, serving the BoP sustainably requires Leapfrog Green innovation – the incubation TODAY of environmentally sustainable technologies and industries of TOMORROW.
3) Green Leap Strategy
New technologies such as renewable energy, biomaterials, distributed generation, point-of-use water purification, sustainable agriculture, wireless information technologies and nanotechnology could hold keys to addressing environmental challenges all the way from the base to the top of the economic pyramid. Hence, there is an urgent need for Green Leap Strategy – commercialising green technologies through BoP business experiments aimed at leapfrogging unsustainable practices.
4) Reverse Innovation and Up-Market Migration
Innovative technologies in developing economies could trickle up to the top of the pyramid, making unsustainable technologies obsolete and reducing the environmental footprint for the wealthy – those who consume the most resources and create the most waste. This so called up-market migration presents enormous growth and profit opportunities for companies through the latest trend of reverse or frugal innovation.
5) Facilitating nascent Clean Tech businesses first for BoP
It might be a good strategy for Clean Tech entrepreneurs to focus on and use what already exists in the market and serve the developing world instead of investing in expensive R&D and new inventions. They should use the rare opportunity to turn ‘lead’ into ‘gold’ by repurposing the thousands of clean ‘shelf’ technologies extant in the world to first serve the needs of the poor in developing countries.
6) Symbiotic Relationship
The Green Leap Strategy can potentially unite the world in fostering peace and shared prosperity by starting small and growing from the bottom up, beginning with the world’s poor and underserved. It also has the advantage of fostering a symbiotic relationship between the so called ‘Triad’ (US, Japan and Western Europe) and emerging market giants (i.e. Brazil, China and India) to generate co-prosperity and offer a win-win solution for everyone involved.