Idea Intrapreneurs

Small and mid-sized companies are increasingly incubating startups within the organisation, once largely the domain of large technology enterprises, to access ideas that can give them a competitive edge, reports Times of India. This is also a much faster way to test an idea in a low-risk environment before deciding whether it's worth investing in and scaling up.

At the India headquarters of navigation company TomTom a couple of months ago, coinciding with the launch of its innovation centre, was the Pune Innovation Day where eight teams presented their ideas to Barbara Belpaire, general manager India, and Alain De Taeye, a member of the global board.
"We want everyone in the organisation to come up with ideas and build a culture of innovation. Over the next six months, the winners will be CEOs of their project and will work on making it a reality," said Belpaire. 

The idea is to have them function as startups within the organisation, even as they continue their day jobs, and eventually see if the product can be taken to the market. The winning idea, called Living Index, looks at how the company's technology can be used to help people choose the right location for a new home or office. More recently, Ideas Revenue Solutions wrapped up the 12th edition of ShipIT, a quarterly hackathon it runs across its offices worldwide. "The focus with these hackathons is more on technical prowess and how technology can be used to create a business impact," MD KS Prashant said.

"There are 56 ideas from the last 12 editions of ShipIT that have been actioned to augment our products, including how the product can be customised for India," he said. One example is a weather forecast for the company's car park solution for airports, which helps improve occupancy forecast. While some companies have focused programmes and events that seek out intrapreneurs, many prefer holding contests and hackathons, often to solve a specific problem. For employees who are keen on doing something outside of their day jobs, this is a great way to test their ideas and skills in a safe, albeit competitive, environment. The level of involvement of the employees varies depending on the organisation. At IDeaS, which makes software for the hotel industry, the involvement typically tends to taper off over time as specialist teams take over to determine whether the idea is indeed marketable.

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