26 June 2009

Microsoft’s global R&D transformation

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Rural kiosks
Navi Radjou writes on HarvardBusiness.org that he recently visited the Microsoft Research India lab in Bangalore, describes what he learned about their Technology for Emerging Markets (TEM) unit, and draws some interesting wider conclusions.

“What impressed me most about TEM is its staff members’ multidisciplinary backgrounds. In addition to computer scientists and engineers, TEM also includes experts in the areas of ethnography, sociology, political science, and development economics, all of which help Microsoft understand the social context of technology in emerging markets like India. […]

By leveraging its multidisciplinary talent, TEM has developed some amazing solutions designed for emerging and underserved markets, both in rural and urban environments.”

Radjou sees this as an example of Microsoft’s new direction in terms of research and development:

“Undoubtedly Microsoft is pioneering the R&D 2.0 model that I discussed in my last post — an organizational model that relies on anthropologists and development economists to first decipher the socio-cultural needs of users in emerging markets like India and then use these deep insights to develop appropriate technology solutions. And it’s telling that Microsoft picked India as the epicentre of its global R&D transformation.”

He concludes with “some operating principles that [he] can offer to senior managers in other multinationals who wish to deploy the R&D 2.0 model in their own emerging market units like India.”

Navi Radjou is the Executive Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.

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