I spoke at the MIT Tech Review’s inaugural conference (emtech) in India recently on a bottom of the pyramid technology panel with Prof. Anil Gupta from IIM-A and the Honey Bee Network and Sanjay Swamy of mCheck.
The Honey Bee network has shown great examples of innovation BY the bottom of the (economic – as Dr. Gupta asserts) pyramid. Check out this video.
Very cool. Also the innovations are very distributed across the country. This reinforces the idea that innovation is a local exercise. Primarily because identifying problems is a very local process.
That said, I strongly believe that business can be created globally. It certainly helps to know local to sell local, but access to local markets happens through networks of the right people and businesses. They are linked through funny ways – eg., we have done nearly no in-country sales trips for Dimagi but have business in 9 countries across the world.
So while I think you’re more likely to create the right tree-climbing solution when you’re surrounded by coconut trees, I believe you can be sitting in Boston or London and contribute to build a successful business that commercializes that technology. Prof. Gupta has done a tremendous job promoting local innovation. The world of entrepreneurs need to tap into these innovations and take them global.