RPG Group, winner of the Most Innovative Company award at the SAP-ET Innovation Awards continues to drive a culture that embraces an innovative mindset, in its quest for outperformance across businesses, functions and people.
In 1962, when President John F Kennedy announced that the United States would “go to the moon in this decade”, it drove the country to extraordinary heights of innovation. As the world watched anxiously, one thing was clear – a far-sighted aspiration can often be a persuasive catalyst, provided it is reasonable and realistic enough to stimulate action.
As the world continues to evolve into a more complex one, efficiency and innovation are becoming more important than before. Not surprisingly, innovation now finds a permanent place in corporate boardroom discussions around growth and strategy.
At RPG, our innovation philosophy is rooted in making a positive impact on business and lives. The Group’s innovation architecture permeates its diverse companies, functions, processes, and management teams.
In 2014, the RPG Group launched its new vision statement - Unleash Talent, Touch Lives, Outperform, sowing the seeds for the diversified conglomerate’s ambitious innovation agenda – to help businesses outperform and make innovation a way of life for all.
The core purpose of Innovation is to drive ‘value’. In today’s constantly evolving business environment, it is crucial that companies continually innovate, simply to stay relevant. Successful business innovation includes new offerings, improved processes and enhanced business models that enable the organisation to leapfrog competition.
“In the next few years, the goal is to imbibe an innovation-driven mindset and wire people to think out-of-the-box to solve any business issue. Challenge statements will continue to be used to drive large-scale innovation in a structured and targeted manner.”
Sachin Nandgaonkar, President & CEO – Speciality Sector, RPG Group
In 2015-16, under the leadership of Sachin Nandgaonkar, President & CEO – Speciality sector, when the Group embarked upon a journey to drive structured innovation across its diverse businesses, the focus was on all of the values enumerated above. It was crucial to lay structures and processes to move from reactive innovation to habitual innovation, and make this scalable from a business standpoint. Most importantly, it was crucial to identify the gaps with respect to realising the larger vision of the Group and its businesses. What emerged was a comprehensive Innovation Strategy built on 3 pillars – crowdsourced innovation via focused “Challenge statements”, a platform to celebrate the Group’s innovations, and robust development programmes to instil a culture of looking beyond the obvious.
The challenge statements, designed to improve the business and get individuals to approach problems innovatively, serve as a guiding force to help achieve goals, improve business output and outperform peers in the industry. More importantly, the crowdsourcing approach exploits the fact that groundbreaking innovations often come from minds not directly concerned with the topic at hand. Such disruptive ideas enable the organisation to adapt to industry shifts with agility, cushioning it against volatility and risk. Today, minds across RPG have been aligned, to get them to think out of the box and innovate creatively as they are presented with the various challenge statements, which include those relevant to specific gaps that needed immediate attention.
For example, one of the many products that RPG’s Innovation gave birth to was the puncture-safe tyre. The result was seemingly simple. Yet, it took an innovative mind to identify the very existence of a gap that went unnoticed for a while. Ultimately, the goal was, is and will always be to reinvigorate business by creating new value and boosting growth and/or productivity.
While “innovation” has become a popular buzzword, and some organisations have created the post of Chief Innovation Officer, the industry fails to agree upon a common definition of the term. It is hardly surprising that people fail to understand its true essence. The true power of innovation only reveals itself when one studies examples of companies and industries that have become obsolete due to their failure to innovate, or have succeeded in creating big-bang innovations, which have catapulted their growth and profitability.
For RPG Group’s Harrisons Malayalam Limited (HML), the problem was unique. Plantations, often known for their tedious manual labour, have processes that date back several years, sometimes over 100 years. At HML, the story is no different. The tappers employed at HML begin their day at 4am and make their way to the 400 trees allotted to each of them. Each tapper marks a cut individually on all the trees and then collects the rubber extracted from each tree in a cup. This rubber is then put into buckets, which the worker then takes to the weighment shed… a process that is not only time consuming, but extremely taxing on the human body. The solution however to this tricky problem was in plain sight. Why not have the weighment shed go to the workers instead of the other way around? It was a breakthrough idea that created a whole new set of processes for more innovation. It challenged mindsets and pushed people out of their boxes. The result, a tractor now goes to all the tappers to collect the rubber, which has made the process more efficient, resulting in reduction in manual work and increase in output.
“Successful innovation takes place when one can harness one’s mind beyond their function, location or company. The GMR Innovation Initiative has helped us build a riveting success story where GMRs from across the Group companies with diverse backgrounds converged to apply their able minds. This enabled them to devise solutions for CEAT’s business problem, and also helped establish a platform to leverage talent across the Group.”
Samip Mutha, Head of Digital & Innovation, RPG Enterprises
For RPG’s IT company, Zensar, there has been a steady, innovative growth in how it has improved the share of wallet in its key industries, thereby improving its competitive edge in the IT landscape at large. Challenge statements at Zensar have largely focused on business challenges faced by its clients, and have leveraged crowdsourcing of ideas, including from their clients to help Zensar become true solution partners.
KEC International, the Group’s infrastructure arm, has continued to work on adopting the industry’s latest trends and technologies with a focus on making its processes more efficient, improving productivity and competency, and making the business agile and profitable. Over the last few months, the business has adopted a multi-pronged approach, with each of the company’s verticals implementing various mechanisation activities. These have included initiatives that focus on early completion of projects and reduced dependence on labour, state-of-the-art semi-autonomous machines in railway projects, deploying remote thermal scanning and AI to ensure social distancing norms.
Earlier this year, in a pilot initiative, RPG sought to unleash the power of crowdsourced ideation, when it launched challenge statements at CEAT and opened them out to the Group Management Resources (GMRs) across the Group. The GMR Innovation Initiative harnessed talent across companies, locations and functions to seek transformational solutions to CEAT’s business problems.
The company put out five exciting challenge statements to find solutions for sales, fleets, dealerships, smart mobility, etc. Despite the uncertainties around the pandemic, the response to this initiative was phenomenal. The innovative ideas focused on reducing costs, synthesising processes, and creating a disruptive package, overall. Unlocking the potential of group-wide talent, this platform also provided GMRs with an opportunity to widen their perspectives, assimilate new knowledge, and learn from cross-functional teams and colleagues from across the Group.
Samip Mutha, Head of Digital & Innovation, RPG Enterprises, commented, “Successful innovation takes place when one can harness one’s mind beyond their function, location or company. The GMR Innovation Initiative has helped us build a riveting success story where GMRs from across the Group companies with diverse backgrounds converged to apply their able minds. This enabled them to devise solutions for CEAT’s business problem, and also helped establish a platform to leverage talent across the Group.”
Early this year, Raychem RPG also witnessed the success of the challenge statement track; employees provided creative solutions to reduce cost across manufacturing, sales and administrative processes, and also voiced innovative ideas to create an Amazon-like digital experience for customers across the value chain.
Innovation at RPG is based on the core tenets of Challenging the Status Quo, Being the First, and Daring to Fly. The RPG Innovation Festival is an annual mega-event, which showcases the Group’s grandest innovations and rewards its innovative minds, with the objective of celebrating and upholding this culture. Today, with two successful seasons to look back upon, the festival has evolved to become an innovation hub, inviting participation from across the Group, bringing together external partners, and serving as a platform for innovation diffusion whereby visitors can learn and adopt ideas for their own businesses.
The festival also recognises those innovative ideas that have failed to launch, which the Group believes are equally important to nurture and encourage a continuous process of innovation.
This award lends momentum to RPG’s journey in innovation. It is a testament to the efforts laid out by the company and recognises that the group is on the right track. Being recognised as the most innovative company amongst eminent industry players at one of the most coveted industry awards is a matter of great pride. Moreover, the recognition of our efforts propels us to push boundaries even further.
Vis-à-vis RPG’s latest award in the Innovation bucket, Sachin Nandgaonkar commented “In the next few years, the goal is to imbibe an innovation-driven mindset and wire people to think out-of-the-box to solve any business issue. Challenge statements will continue to be used to drive large-scale innovation in a structured and targeted manner.” He also puts special emphasis on the need for it to become a part of life at operating levels, senior management levels, and optic levels.
In the near future, RPG will reach a point where innovative thinking will become an inherent part of every RPGian’s constitution and work ethic. The Group’s vision statement that has inspired innovative minds to Outperform by Unleashing Talent, serves as an inspiration to corporations, universities, start-ups, research, and thousands of creative individuals across, and will continue to do so.