Design!publiC 2: An Overview of the Morning Sessions

The second Design Public Conclave is now nearly half over, and we’ve now paused for lunch after a truly inspiring and thought-provoking morning. Several interesting thoughts and unexpected ideas emerged from the three panel discussions, generating animated conversation and almost heated discussions.


The first panel discussion, Innovation and the Indian Corporation, revolved around the question of whether Indian corporations as innovative as they need to be. Dr. Arun Pande of Tata Consulting Services argued that Indian corporations like TATA regularly produce socially conscious innovation, giving the example of TCS’ Mobile Agro Advisory System, mKrishi, an innovative mobile platform that connects farmers with an ecosystem that empowers them to make sound decisions about agriculture, drive profits and conserve the environment.

Mahesh Murthy of Pinstorm, on the other hand, felt differently and argued that, in fact, Indian corporations lack a sufficiently enabling innovation ecology. He argued that even such services as mKrishi, though commendable in their intentions, tend to lack a comprehensive approach and strategic design. He strongly advocated the need to integrate such design thinking approaches to generate true innovation.

During the second panel discussion, Is Innovation in the Public and Social Sectors Possible?, Ashwin Mahesh answered the question with a vehement yes, saying that social innovation is not only possible but is underway, and has yielded some fantastic results. He spoke about how processes of innovation designed in the public interest are usually the most successful and meaningful means to address the grand challenges of society.

Rohini Nilekani of the Arghyam foundation expressed her strong agreement towards this view, and also spoke about how more and more social venturing can be seen today, as more people see the value of innovation in the social sector.

Sunil Abraham of the Center for Internet and Society discussed the value of structure versus intuition when designing public and social initiatives. He indicated that each approach has its value, and that neither should be ignored in favor of the other.

In the third panel discussion this morning, The Challenge of Start Up Innovation, the discussion centered around the question of what start-ups need in order to innovate. There was a general consensus that there is currently too much money chasing too few start-ups, and that there needs to be a system that will allow more small ventures to succeed. The conversation then turned to the need for a different accelerator model, wherein start-ups could be exposed to the needs of consumers, and that this would be the means to generate the kind of innovations that could help solve the grand challenges of our society.

The panelists also spoke about the need to reconfigure the end goals of innovation: not only should we aim to work to scale, but we should aim to bring the benefits of innovation to scale. And, in order to achieve that, innovation has to be seeded in start-ups, through greater investments and accelerators.

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