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HUL CEO Sanjiv Mehta lists four easy ways to crack innovation

Sanjiv Mehta believes that innovation helps maintain a lead over competition.
Sanjiv Mehta believes that innovation helps maintain a lead over competition.
Sanjiv Mehta, HUL’s CEO, on a complex model of four axes, at the intersection of which lies a successful breakthrough.

Reading about innovation strategies in textbooks is one thing and hearing about it from industry leaders is another. The students of a Mumbai-based B-school had the opportunity to listen to HUL’s top boss, Sanjiv Mehta a while back and learn more about how the FMCG major views innovation.

Mehta first unpacked the complex idea of innovation for the benefit of the audience. “...the way we look at it, it is a profitable application of a creative idea,” he said. He went on to share more on the ideal circumstances under which it may succeed. There are four key conditions.

1. Along the first axis sits the fact that a key problem is being solved or that an un-met need of a consumer is being fulfilled.

2. Technology which is disti nctive a nd hard to replicate is involved.

3. There is a business model where you can appropriate a large part of the balance sheet towards innovation.

4. And occasionally, there is the fourth axis, where you can live off the vulnerabilities of your competitors.

The intersection of these four axes is really the sweet spot of breakthrough innovation, according to Mehta.

“As a consumer goods company, we always say that innovation is a lifeline. Core is what enables you to earn your daily bread and butter and the core is what enables you to go after future core,” Mehta said. Not investing in the future core can jeopardise a company’s lead over its competitors.

“When we look at the future, we think of how our future portfolio must look like and then we put disproportionate money behind innovation and building the categories of the future. And that is where a market maker mindset comes in,” Mehta said.
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