Theoretically any new product which finds a place in the market becomes innovation.
by S. Fayaz Ahmad
Greater Kashmir, 24 August 2011
To many, Kashmir is not an innovative state; rightly so. If we take some parameters to gauge the innovative performance of the valley; consider R&D spending, patent data and product output, then the results are very depressing. But at the same time if we try to study and explore the informal sector in Kashmir then the story is not that bleak. It is rather very different.
There are many good innovations in Kashmir which go unnoticed, thus remain unprotected under the current Intellectual Property Regime. One such example is our Anchaar or Achaar (Pickle). Anchaar - a traditional Kashmiri pickle is not something which is only traditional but it has a great significance as a good innovation. Now the question is how this is an innovation and how it contributes to the economic growth of the valley?
Joseph Schumpeter known as the father of innovations and one of the most original social scientists of the 20th century defines innovation as the introduction of new products, new methods of production, new sources of supply, new ways of doing business and new methods to exploit the market. Similarly Kanter (1983) defines innovation as the generation, acceptance and implementation of new ideas, process, products or services. Innovations can be of many types, it can be incremental or what we call marginal innovations which basically are continuous improvements or radical innovations. Schumpeter further argues that innovation is the outcome of continuous struggle in historical time between individual entrepreneurs who are advocating novel solutions to particular problems and social inertia. He also added an important modification to the definition of innovation by calling 'imitators' as also innovators.
Contextualizing the Schumpeterian definition on Anchaar, one thing becomes clear that this is an innovation. People involved in this trade not only exploit the market but are also exploring new business methods. Anchaar is not a new product. But the way it is being exploited in the market makes it new for the consumers who willingly pay for it. Theoretically any new product which finds a place in the market becomes innovation.
The second part which deserves attention is that this traditional innovation - or call it traditional knowledge - like any other innovation needs to be protected under the modern IPR regime else China or some other country will start selling on our behalf. Pashmina is a good example, people sitting in Amritsar, Nepal and Beijing are violating the trade mark of "Kashmiri Pashmina" and we are happily purchasing them at Srinagar.
To recognize and respect our rich cultural heritage is inevitable. We can't dream of a developed state or a live nation by escaping it. Cultural heritage plays a decisive role in the rise and fall of nations. Even David Laudes, Harvard historian, who has spent much time of his academic life studying wealth and poverty in the world concludes by arguing that the rise and fall of nations is not determined by climate and natural resources, military might, financial muscle, technical expertise or even inherent biological traits but culture is the decisive factor, he says.
(S. Fayaz Ahmad is a Research Scholar at the Center for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and author of forthcoming book "Unsung Innovators of Kashmir". He can be reached at email@example.com)