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The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in India

From Domino’s pizza to low-fare air travel, the companies transforming the Indian economy.

The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in India
[Photo: courtesy of IndiGo]

1. IndiGo

For demonstrating that low fares do not beget low-quality service. No-frills airline IndiGo has burgeoned into the country’s largest as well as its only profitable one. Stepless ramps cut down boarding times, line-busting scanners speed up travelers without check-in bags, and a pit-stop approach to aircraft cleaning slashes turnaround times to 20 minutes. A 24/7 Twitter handle guarantees a personal response within 12 minutes, a Braille guide for visually impaired passengers to communicate with the crew, and behind-the-scenes innovations like ACARS (aircraft communication addressing and reporting systems), as well as a digital data link to convey short messages about flight status between the aircraft and ground stations via satellite are all aimed toward meeting its catchy promise, “On time, every time.”
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2. Perfint Healthcare

For building commercially available tools that will bring medical robotics into the mainstream in cancer therapy and pain care interventions. Perfint’s FDA-approved products are first of a kind, at a time when interventional robotic procedures like tumor ablation and chemoembolization are becoming preferred oncology treatments globally. The tools, already in use in hospitals in India, China, Australia, Germany, Russia and the U.S., can better see, plan, navigate, and perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures with a high degree of accuracy and safety.
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3. ISRO’s Mangalyaan Mars Mission

For pulling off a remarkably frugal engineering feat by launching the Mangalyaan satellite in 18 months on a $75 million budget. ISRO took a thrifty approach to time, money, and materials costs—sidestepping multiple iteration models and going straight to the final flight model, limiting expensive ground tests, and adapting systems from earlier missions and using them as building blocks. The final cost came to three-quarters of the $100 million production cost of Hollywood’s space-based hit film Gravity. (The Indian space agency’s Chandrayaan moon mission in 2008 cost a tenth of other nation’s moon flights.) ISRO is establishing itself as a purveyor of cost-effective space technologies and inexpensive rocket launches.

4. Domino’s India

For marrying local expertise with global know-how and setting India on its way to becoming Domino’s largest market worldwide. Domino’s “30 Mins or Free” home delivery promise relies on scientifically designed delivery catchment areas—each street, intersection, and traffic light is meticulously mapped. Its sub-dollar pizza (starting at $0.60) was reverse-engineered from crust to topping to keep it profitable yet still able to whet middle-class India’s palate. The country’s vast culinary heritage is inspiration for its chefs to develop new products, such as a topping of raw banana cooked in south Indian spices or the side of Taco Indiana adapted from northern India’s kebabs and parathas. The chain has 831 stores in 180 cities.

5. Tata Swach

For saving millions of lives through a low-cost water purifier. Researched by Tata Chemicals in collaboration with companies in the Tata conglomerate, the technology uses processed rice husk ash soaked in silver nanoparticles to deliver safe drinking water to Indian households, removing up to a billion bacteria and 10 million viruses from a single liter of water at a cost of $0.003/liter to the user. The $20 filter does not need electricity, so it’s ideal for blackout-plagued rural and semiurban India. Last year, Tata Swach supplied clean drinking water to millions gathered for the world’s largest mass pilgrimage, the Mahakumbhmela, on the river Ganges in northern India’s Allahabad.

6. Novopay

For using technology to kick-start a bottom-of-the-pyramid banking revolution. In a country where more than half of the 1.2 billion population does not have access to any type of banking services and are usually at the mercy of usurious money lenders, Novopay ties up with banks. Its software drives financial inclusiveness by pioneering biometrics-enabled, mobile-based digital banking transactions at kirana, street-corner convenience stores. The infrastructure required is minimal: A smartphone, a fist-size fingerprint reader, and a tiny printer make the kirana store a neighborhood banking outlet. Pushcart vendors, tailors, and street cleaners have opened bank accounts, deposited cash, and made withdrawals at more than 1,300 (and growing) such outlets countrywide.

7. The Ugly Indian

For attempting to eradicate visible filth in India’s cities through a DIY citizen’s movement that acts on the philosophy “kaam chalu mooh bandh” (“Start doing, stop talking”). Bangalore-based The Ugly Indian works under complete anonymity and adopts a commonsensical approach to problem-solving. Volunteers sign on and show up for specific “spotfixes,” pay a nominal fee for the tools, and get to work. Thousands of volunteers have cleared roads, street corners, pavements, and underpasses with no finger-pointing at the government or politicians. The movement has spun off many neighborhood “rising” groups in Bangalore, and is spreading to other cities where DIY groups are creating sustainable solutions to India’s overwhelming urban civic challenges. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, joined the cleanliness battle with his Swach Bharat Abhyaan (“Clean India Mission”), an ice bucket challenge-like program where people tag friends to dedicate time every year to clean their surroundings.

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8. Micromax

For democratizing mobile-phone technology. Seven years since the launch of its first phone, Micromax has become India’s largest mobile brand, whipping global competitors like Apple and Nokia and just passing former market leader Samsung in early February by putting reasonably priced smartphones within the reach of many Indians in the world’s fastest-growing mobile handset market. It has introduced several innovations to the Indian market, such as dual SIM phones, QWERTY keypads, and the first budget quad-core smartphone, and is now entering markets including Russia.

9. U2opia Mobile

For creating global products that connect non-data-enabled users. U2opia’s flagship product, Fonetwish, enables users to access social media on the Internet without a data connection, and has customers using Facebook and Twitter in locations that do not have Internet access. U2opia has 28 million users in 45 countries, connected regardless of the device they use or the country they live in, and has marketers now using the platform in an array of fields including farming, market research, and media.

10. Freshdesk

For taking the tedium out of customer support for companies by gamifying their customer service. Freshdesk’s cloud-based solution makes it easy for businesses of all sizes to provide top-notch, personal service by motivating their service agents with points and virtual trophies and by listening to customers, no matter where they are coming from—email, phone, social networks, websites, or mobile apps—and getting back with a quick, accurate response. The five-year-old company has 30,000 customers across the globe, including Cisco, Honda, Hugo Boss, 3M, and Sony Pictures.