Views of slums on the shores of Mumbai, India against the backdrop of skyscrapers under construction.

Impact and engagement at the Centre for India & Global Business

29 July 2021

The article at a glance

Each of our research centres has unique ways to engage with non-academic organisations and, through that, to generate real world impact. This month we decided to share with you the work of the Centre for India & Global Business at Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS).

Each of our research centres has unique ways to engage with non-academic organisations and, through that, to generate real world impact. This month we decided to share with you the work of the Centre for India & Global Business at Cambridge Judge Business School.

The Centre’s vision is to become a “world knowledge platform”, a term coined by former Indian President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, for creating and disseminating cutting-edge practices and insights related to India and innovation across academic, corporate, and geographical boundaries. The Centre for India & Global Business (CIGB) acts as one of the catalysts of multi-disciplinary connections between India and the University of Cambridge and generates valuable insights and impact on various socio-economic phenomena relevant to the country through research, teaching and engagement.

Conducting research with practical relevance to India and beyond

Jaideep Prabhu, Professor of Marketing.
Professor Jaideep Prabhu

The Centre for India & Global Business conducts research in three key areas: innovation activities of multinationals in India; the internationalisation of Indian firms; and co-innovation processes between corporations and individuals and organisations at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. In the last few years, faculty and students associated with the Centre have explored how innovation takes place in Indian state-owned, family-owned and publicly-held companies, have analysed micro-entrepreneurs in Bangladesh and have worked on several projects with the international social enterprise BRAC. Moreover, in the last few years, Professor Jaideep Prabhu, who directs CIGB, has done extensive research on frugal innovation. In 2012, he co-authored the book Jugaad Innovation about doing more with less in India and other developing countries; in 2015, he followed that up with the co-authored book Frugal Innovation about the same phenomenon in the west; and in 2021 he published How Should a Government Be? The New Levers of State Power, a book about what frugal innovation can achieve in the public sector.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the CIGB’s research has delivered insights into how organisations and governments can face new global healthcare and socio-economic challenges. In 2020, along with co-authors, Jaideep Prabhu analysed examples of frugal innovation related to the COVID-19 emergency in several parts of the world, such as the creation of pop-up hospitals in the UK; trains repurposed as COVID-19 isolation wards or testing centres in India, Pakistan, and France; and the re-deployment of “new drugs from old vials” to treat COVID-19. In 2019-2020, he also collaborated with several psychologists and economists on an interdisciplinary study involving data on over a million people across the United States, Australia, and Uganda. The team established empirical support for the hypothesis that greater income inequality hits the poor the hardest, because inequality weakens the perception of a community buffer, which is a key source of support for low-income people. These findings imply that post COVID-19 stimuli should aim to strengthen local communities and infrastructure in addition to helping individuals and groups who are suffering financial distress.

Teaching businesses, public- and third-sector organisations

The main way that CIGB shares its knowledge on innovation and global business is through teaching. The Centre has helped design and deliver courses on frugal innovation and India for other centres within Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) and the University of Cambridge. Additionally, faculty from CIGB have delivered courses in Executive Education, such as the Leadership and Strategic Thinking Programme for Senior Indian Civil Servants; the Delhi School Principals programme (along with Cambridge Faculty of Education) for head teachers of Delhi state schools; the LEAP programme for leaders of Indian technical and scientific universities and research institutions; and the UpGrad Strategic Digital Marketing course for students working in Indian companies.

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Siling Tan (MBA 2017)

Most importantly, faculty and students affiliated with the CIGB have been very proactive and successful in writing and publishing teaching case studies, an ideal way to connect theory and practice for use in the classroom. Last year, Neil Davey, who completed an MPhil in Technology Policy at CJBS in 2018/19, won the Worshipful Company of Marketors’ 2019 Award for Outstanding Performance in Marketing for a case study he co-authored with Jaideep Prabhu titled Azuri Technologies – Scaling Off-grid Solar Lighting. The case describes how the Azuri Group, a Cambridge-based company that develops smart Solar solutions for various African economies, has strategically developed its local distribution channels in Kenya in order to keep growing. In the previous year, Siling Tan, a Cambridge MBA graduate (MBA 2017), won the same award for the case study titled Xiaomi India: From Underdog to #1 Smartphone Brand which discusses how Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi entered and expanded into the India market.

Engaging with global organisations to help them innovate

Every year, CIGB organises public engagement events related to its research areas and engages with leaders from the business, public and third sectors to share with them valuable insights deriving from its work and its members’ expertise. In the last few years, in collaboration with the Centre for Science and Policy, CIGB supported a large number of civil servants from the UK and the EU with advice on India and Indian business. Similarly, the Centre has engaged with a number of policy organisations, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Foreign Office through interviews, meetings, reports, toolkits, events, white papers and webinars.

Meanwhile, its researchers have consulted for businesses and supported other universities and institutions on frugal innovation. For example, the Centre’s director helped Ignitho Technologies to develop their business model around frugal innovation. He also sits on the Advisory Board of the Center for Research and Innovation in Frugal Technology Management, FORE School of Management, New Delhi. Over the years, the Centre has worked closely with its founders and strategic partners such as BP (founding partner), Infosys Technologies, and the Tata Group.

A cornerstone of CIGB engagement has been the delivery of numerous talks and webinars on frugal innovation and/or India. In the last year, researchers from the Centre have spoken at the Royal Academy of Engineering, at the Confederation of Indian Industry, at an OECD-OPSI event, and in several events on frugal innovation organised by high education institutions. In particular, since 2018, the Centre has been co-hosting with the Circular Economy Centre the InnoFrugal UK Conference. The conference brings together academics, managers, and entrepreneurs to discuss ways to advance the circular economy and concepts of frugal innovation. Finally, CIGB is serving a pivotal role as catalyst of connections and collaborations between CJBS/the University of Cambridge and Indian and Bangladeshi organisations. For example, in 2019-2020, the Centre organised a visit of Indian High Commissioner to CJBS and the University and hosted a visit to CJBS by the Minister of Digital Innovation, Government of Bangladesh.

This article was published on

29 July 2021.