This interview provides more information on the topics discussed in our report Innovating for the next three billion: the rise of the global middle class — and how to capitalize on it.
Meera Sampath is Director of the Xerox Research Centre India. This Centre is Xerox’s latest global research location. It aims to bring together Xerox researchers from around the world with external partners to explore, develop and incubate breakthrough innovations (or innovative solutions and services) for Xerox’s global customers, with a special focus on emerging markets.
How do you strike the balance between innovations that are specific for customers in rapid-growth markets and those that have broader global applications?
At Xerox, we have a very strong program that we call “customer-led innovation.” This involves researchers from our labs spending time with customers along with our sales and marketing teams. We will often bring customers into our labs, visit their offices or spend extended periods of time at our customers’ sites engaging in work practice studies, in order to understand what their specific pain points are and how we can help them. When we identify an opportunity from this process, we focus on what that customer needs, but we also try to think about how we can build fundamental technology components that can be applied for a similar set of customers anywhere else in the world, in other emerging geographies or in the developed world.
How do the research teams at Xerox link with the business units?
Ultimately, our business division colleagues are the ones who fund us for the research work that we do, and they are also our value-chain partners. When it comes to problems that require additional innovation from one market to another, the research group might come in and solve that particular problem. But once the research has been done, and the initial product offering has been proved to be viable by a prototype system in the lab, we then transfer the know-how, and it is our business division partners who have access to the different geographies and responsibilities for the geographies to prioritize that (know-how) in that particular market.
How do you ensure that researchers in one location have visibility into other markets?
We have an initiative called “crossovers.” As the name implies, this is designed for researchers from one lab to go and spend an extended period of time in one of the other labs, trying to understand the local geography and the local customers, but also much more importantly, to build the connections and relationships between the different organizations. The model that we are trying to build at the India Research Centre is one where people from anywhere in Xerox can come and work with our customers and partners in India.
Are there any cultural issues that you need to think about when exposing researchers from one country to customers and partners in another?
We understand that it takes time and trust to build these kinds of relationships. If I have somebody from the US going to a remote place in India, or even an established urban organization , it’s important first to build the trust with the customer before they would actually open up their doors and really let you go in and study their system. When you cross borders and go to a different geography, there is one more level of respect and confidence that needs to be gained.
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