LAHORE: Pakistani entrepreneurs lack the insight and drive to innovate, which is the key driver of growth for all businesses around the world, especially in the SME sector. Their reluctance to innovate has hampered their growth potential in domestic and foreign markets.
Innovation is about finding solutions to customer problems. Imported products fascinate local buyers because of their innovative designs, packaging, colors or finishes.
Successful companies prefer incremental innovation in which the existing product is steadily improved by adding new functionality, removing functionality, combining two products into one, splitting a product into two, substituting components or materials, by reducing the size of the components, by incorporating the product into another, or adding additional functions.
21st century innovations through technology have uprooted many industries like cameras, photographic papers, and film as all of these features and more are available in a handy cell phone.
We may not be able to innovate with high technology, but our SMBs can improve the design and features of the products they market that typically don’t have the finish that consumers find in versions. imported.
We observe that when car manufacturers change models every year, they mainly make changes to the design and appearance of the car, while the base engine remains the same. Sometimes they also replace the engine with better efficiency through the innovative application of technology by their workers.
SMEs are expanding their markets with these small innovations in design and ease of use. To achieve this, SMEs must first strengthen themselves by exploring both domestic and foreign markets that are not occupied by other companies.
Pakistan’s narrow export markets reveal that all entrepreneurs, large or small, are focusing their efforts on markets already discovered and competing. SMEs might find a better response for their products, from clothing to household appliances in less developed economies.
The Pakistani textile industry has failed to gain a foothold in the global textile market because exporters do not make their own designer or fashionable clothes, they just produce clothes for big chains at low prices.
We do not have any popular textile brands for the world market. It is rare for entrepreneurs to release effective technology through research.
The benefits of research are many – Nishat, for example, introduced fabric dyeing using a spray machine. It has reduced the use of dye, water and heat. The carbon footprint has been reduced.
The idea has attracted foreign buyers because they support any measure to reduce the carbon footprint. Such examples are few. Startups in Pakistan have just started to make their presence felt around the world and have attracted foreign funding for their innovative ideas.
The lack of innovation is the malaise that plagued local industries. Most entrepreneurs think innovation is about making an exact replica of a popular product.
Innovators must understand that any innovation must meet the needs or wants of customers. Any innovation that meets a stronger need or desire desired by many people is more likely to be successful. However, many innovations that met a desire or a pressing need have always failed. Successful innovations also require triggers, especially market change and the technology required.
Innovators need to make sure that the technology and the markets are ready. Companies wishing to innovate must also create a culture of innovation within the organization.
The local home appliance industry eliminated foreign competition at the turn of this century by introducing innovative designs and new features in televisions and refrigerators. However, foreign competitors have now started to reclaim their market by improving features introduced by local manufacturers who have failed to continue innovation.
Many companies, especially those targeting export markets, adopt certifications such as Six Sigma or ISO 9001 that put in place standard processes that people must follow. These procedures help companies achieve operational efficiency. However, these certification systems often end up stifling innovation.
If management and core staff are required to follow rules all the time, entrepreneurs should forget that they would be creating innovations. It is by responsibly breaking certain rules that you can think outside the box and innovate.
All businesses need to strike a balance between improving operational efficiency and creating an environment and culture to foster innovation. Companies that find the magic bullet of balancing will certainly come out ahead in the innovation game.
Pakistani entrepreneurs should learn from the experience of developed economies. About 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies disappeared from the list between 1975 and 1995, and the main reason for the high attrition rate was that these companies lacked sustained innovation. In the 21st century, those who survive for two decades are considered very successful.