India has a fast-growing economy, a strong middle class, and constitutional support for freedom of expression, yet has failed to be consistently supportive of innovation. India is thus ranked number 64 on the Global Innovation Index (GII). This paper provides a broad overview of innovation in India, seeks to identify specific connections between democracy and India’s innovation performance, and offers an explanation for India’s uneven innovation output.
The key argument of this paper is that innovation is more than ideation. For innovation to be complete, an idea has to be tested, validated, improved upon, and executed. While freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, this alone is not enough to ensure ideation. Effective ideation may be blocked by other societal and cultural factors, such as the hierarchy of a traditional society that gets reflected in organisational structures and decision-making processes, and a lack of overall creative confidence. Even if this is overcome, innovation can be impaired by the absence of a supportive institutional environment, which prevents ideas from being validated and implemented. In the case of India, a lack of high quality infrastructure, absence of enough skilled manpower, and corruption across the government and regulatory framework are institutional voids which impede innovation.