Tech Mahindra is an Indian multinational IT services and consulting company, part of Mahindra Group and worth US$5.2 billion. Recently, it has become one of the innovation leading companies, hence awarded by ICC and Mind the Bridge as part of Corporate Startup Stars Awards 2021.

After winning this prestigious award, Nikhil Malhotra, Chief Innovation Officer at Tech Mahindra, sat down with us to give us the key insights into the company’s open innovation activities.

In one sentence he summed up how Covid-19 affected the company – “Covid-19 worked as a Chief digital officer and accentuated our efforts.”

They believe collaborative ecosystem is the only way forward in this direction. They have set up a maker’s lab in Pune (India), which is a R&D division. It not only connects academia but businesses as well as the government in solving problems faced by society in day-to-day life in this new era.

Initiatives taken by to upskill next generation

Funneled and fueled by communities. Tech Mahindra connects with 500 interns every year and bring out the best ideas brewing inside them. The company gives them a platform to execute those ideas to support open innovation and accelerate across what is effective for a use case.

“We are trying to solve the problem which government is facing on digital front. We connect our businesses with the problems they are facing and take a holistic approach towards it.”

The Maker’s lab, an internal innovation hub is a home to a lot of starts up which come up and solve these problems. Tech Mahindra has innovation ideas which even came from kids aged 12-14 approx. It shows how unique and revolutionizing their perspective is when it comes to innovation.

“It is the only way to set up a collaborative ecosystem to innovate for the future, not only for us but for the humanity at large.”

Key performance indicators

How Tech Mahindra calculate their KPIs? By considering the value they bring to their key stakeholders. Another factor  is the ideas which are generated within the company and the ecosystem. And finally how many of those are filtered out in terms of future needs.

Those ideas are converted into prototypes and POCs. Some belong to fundamental research and applied research, some are just problem statement given by community. Then based on those prototypes they scale possible ones into a product or solution.

Successful open innovation products

  • Bharat Markup Language Editor- BHAML – An app which enables the coders from all over India but especially from rural regions to code in their regional language (Bengali, Hindi, Marathi etc.). For a country with numerous local languages, an invention as such will let the raw talents from each part of diverse country to compete in today’s technology space without having the obstacle of language.
  • Therapeutic molecule to fight Covid-19 virus – The biggest problem faced by humanity in recent era is Covid-19. Being a tech company with professionals who have no prior knowledge of virology, they started working towards the solution at Makers lab to serve the community, with the help of government and academia. They used the principles of AI to find out about 17 molecules that impact the virus. These tested on 3D printed bio lung in collaboration with lab partners. And finally, the result was a therapeutic molecule which can fight Covid-19 virus.
  • Open innovation in Agri-tech community – India is a global agriculture power but due to recent climate changes and other factors, it has been facing a lot of difficulties. Through their open innovation they have tried to solve the problem for farmer community in India. They worked with principal scientific advisors to create an app for 140 million farmers, who may get information regarding their land surface, their water reservoirs, minerals etc. on an app and then built that app in 12 languages overall. A big boon for local farmers in different parts of India.

The future technology goals

Tech Mahindra is working not only in India, but also in Australia with scaleups. In Bangladesh they are mentoring and helping to transform the innovation space in the country. Special initiatives are taken to support the communities such as women entrepreneurs, working towards causes and emerging issues.

While discussing the area of technology areas where company will be focusing on in future, Mr. Nikhil Malhotra mentioned AI, Quantum computing, Robotic and IOT, and of course Metaverse.

He further explained that they want Artificial Intelligence to become more generic and not just limited to specific use cases in terms of solving problems. They want AI to be inspired by neuroscience for it to evolve better.

“In the field of Robotics and IOT – We feel the man and machine have to collaborate for the betterment of humanity.”

Quantum computing is also an area the company wants to explore through open innovation activities. Being reversible in principle, it is a sustainable technology which can be a solution for energy crisis.

Tech Mahindra is innovating future by enhancing technology with collaborative approach. Recognizing the problems from the community and then working on solutions together with them.