The rise of digitalization has heralded an age of abundance that offers limitless opportunities for corporates who can strike the right balance between investing in ideas and competing for profits.
In the so-called ‘Business 4.0’ environment, large companies must adopt an agile approach if they are to prosper – something that can be easier said than done.
The key to harnessing this abundant harvest – be it of data, talent, or ideas – is often to be found outside an organization’s four walls.
Partnerships between cash-rich, ideas-poor corporates and cash-poor, ideas-rich start-ups can often represent the ultimate win-win situation.
And start-ups, which are brimming with innovative ideas, can provide the perfect mix of talent and vision that corporates need to realize their digital ambitions.
Collaboration is key
As thousands of start-ups travelled to Helsinki for the annual Slush event, Tata Consultancy Services invited a number of its corporate clients to mix with some of Europe’s most exciting innovators at a pre-Slush seminar that highlighted how businesses must adapt to a digital world.
While technology is clearly a crucial component in achieving success in the Business 4.0 era, companies must first consider their mindset.
As Amit Bajaj, CEO of TCS Europe, says: “The whole concept of innovation or disruption is less about technology and more about mindset and ways of working. You need a mindset to harness abundance, rather than harnessing scarcity.
“There is a change of mindset from working in a very proprietary way to more of a collaborative way of working.”
This collaboration can come in the form of internal empowerment of IT departments, or – as is becoming increasingly common – it can come in the form of partnerships with start-ups.
A merger of capital and ideas
This year’s Slush attracted 20,000 attendees from the start-up, corporate and venture capital communities. What started out 10 years ago as a relatively small gathering attended by around 200, predominantly Finnish, entrepreneurs has grown into an international event.
From a start-up perspective, the opportunity to meet and network with corporates provides a potential route to grow their own businesses.
Miikka Kataja, Head of Partnerships at Slush, explains: “In addition to venture capital, there’s also a way to scale-up through partnerships with bigger companies.”
As for the corporates, partnering with start-ups provides a way of future-proofing their business.
In this age of abundance profits are driven by innovation – success cannot be achieved through financial firepower alone.
As Dr. Gautam Shroff, Vice-President and Chief Scientist at TCS Research, says: “Competing on ideas is just as important as competing on financials and, in this world of abundance, ideas and financials will eventually come together.
He says corporates have just as much to gain from teaming up with innovative start-ups as the start-ups themselves, and adds: “If businesses don’t invest in ideas, they are likely to fail.”
An abundance of partnership opportunities
No matter how big your organization is, or how many talented employees you have, it is always possible to learn from others.
Shashi Bhushan, Chief Innovation Evangelist at TCS, explains: “One of the things we learned about seven to 10 years ago was getting over the ‘not invented here syndrome’. While companies can invest in innovation, there’s a lot more capability outside.
“We joke that while there are 350,000 smart people at TCS, there’s a much wider world outside – not all smart people work for TCS alone.”
Tapping into external expertise requires a joined-up approach. TCS has forged collaborative partnerships across the research, academic, start-up and corporate worlds facilitated by its Co-Innovation Network, known as COIN.
Launched in 2006, COIN gives TCS and participating partners an innovation edge by coordinating the ideas of about 1,500 start-ups across all industries around the world.
Start-up partnerships facilitated through initiatives like COIN are more likely to stand the test of time in this age of abundance.