1. Indian Premier League
The IPL has transformed cricket, establishing a new model that shows how the game can be revamped, restructured, and tailored to today's short attention spans and entertainment infrastructure—and succeed wildly. This hot sports league is expected to generate revenue of more than $2 billion over its first decade, including proceeds from TV and promotional rights, franchise sales, and theatrical rights to screen IPL games in cinema houses across India. Top 50 No. 22
This startup founded in 2004 reverse-engineers telecom for the rural poor with solar-powered base stations that can be assembled onto a village home's rooftop by anybody and operational with mobile service within six hours. Two telecoms in Africa have already signed up to roll out the technology. Top 50 No. 39
3. Reliance Industries
You can buy everything from gas to groceries at one of Reliance Industries' myriad subsidiaries, including Reliance Fresh (food), Reliance Solar (solar power), and Reliance Institute of Life Sciences (education). But what sets the $29 billion company apart from other behemoths is extreme vertical integration: Reliance doesn't just make and sell suits (under the brand Vimal); it makes and sells the fabrics to make the suits, and the yarn to make the fabrics, and the thread to make the yarn. Says innovation expert Dev Patnaik, "Reliance is the GE of the next century."
4. Godrej Group
Godrej crowdsourced rural villages for design input on its small, affordable ChotuKool refrigerator, and it partnered with more than 40,000 barbers and salons to promote a new hair-care line this summer. Godrej's consumer products division also ranked No. 11 in Hewitt Associates' annual 25 Best Employers of India in 2009, citing a strong performance-linked bonus system and a 1% attrition rate. Godrej Consumer Products' net tripled to Rs 93 crore ($20 million) in Q2 2009, while revenue increased 65% to Rs 576 crore ($125 million).
5. Narayana Hrudayalaya
The No. 3 company on last year's list for India—honored for its low-cost, high-quality heart surgeries—is still doing amazing work. It's now working to extend its clinical expertise to cancer with the launch of Biocon, a 1,400-bed facility providing treatment for head-and-neck, breast, and cervical cancers. Also, last year's Integrated Telemedicine Project aims to extend the hospital's health-care reach to all 53 African countries through fiber-optic networks and satellite.
6. Bharti Airtel
Last April, India's largest cell-phone service provider—with some 110 million subscribers—began providing wholesale international long-distance services to and from any country, putting it in direct competition with AT&T, BT, and Sprint. More recently, it partnered with Cisco to develop and sell data services and Twitter to let its customers receive tweets for free.
Among its many projects, the homegrown services powerhouse has a new gateway that uses GSM mobile technology to remotely collect data from medical devices such as blood-pressure monitors, glucose meters, pedometers, and weighing scales, then provide real-time medical data, video, and image transfer from a patient to doctor.
8. A Little World
This Mumbai-based tech shop is transforming the burgeoning mobile-payments sector with innovations that connect rural India to mainstream financial institutions. Its 2003 incubation of Mchek, a mobile-to-mobile payment platform, was later adopted by the state of India and Airtel before it was spun off into a stand-alone business three years later. More recently, its Zero platform, a technology that turns a smartphone, lockbox, and fingerprint scanner into a portable bank branch, aspires to integrate the unbanked masses in rural India. Anurag Gupta, CEO, set the goal for this microbanking approach to reach 50 million; so far, it has reached 3 million.
9. Mahindra & Mahindra
What really has us interested in M&M is not its new compact diesel pickup, set to be sold in the U.S. starting in February, or its aggressive partnership with Renault. Rather, it's the One Mahindra Portal, an intranet-based innovation "pad" launched in early 2009. This companywide platform allows those who wish—some 40% of its 100,000 employees across 104 subsidiaries—to brainstorm and share ideas; at last count, it has generated 400, from processes to new products, that have reportedly been put into beta tests. One example: a cell-phone app that analyzes stress levels of users from their voices.
Even with the outsourcing market taking a major hit in 2009, the company is still hiring thousands of college grads, doubling the length of their training to six months and assigning the new hires mock projects to hone their skills. "When the economy picks up, I would rather have the problem of too many people than too few," CFO Vibin Balakrishnan has said. Infosys also teamed with major Western players like Microsoft, Oracle, and NVIDIA in 2009.