Times of India meets 4 innovation goals, sees 200% innovation growth in 3 years

By L. Carol Christopher


Pleasant Hill, California, USA


In the process of implementing an ambitious innovation programme, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. (BCCL), a.k.a. The Times Group of India, saw 70% innovation growth in one year and 200% growth over a three-year period, meeting several goals: 

  1. Significantly higher revenue. 

  2. Cost reductions. 

  3. Enhanced brand equity. 

  4. New platform for effective employee engagement. 

The 175-year-old media conglomerate has interests that include Internet, television, 13 newspapers that publish 8.5 million copies daily with 39 printing centres. The company has more than 7,500 employees who, with The Times of Innovation Programme and under the guidance of the chief operating officer, have contributed to these results.

Innovation has become a mission here, with this definitive statement: “Creating an entrepreneurial culture of innovation and empowerment, achieving sustainable technology leadership in print and beyond.” 

Customers inspired this innovation programme, which delivers a transformative experience for readers, thereby generating additional value for advertising and an increase of revenues — at breakthrough cost for The Times Group. The COO continuously reviews the programme, offering recognition and rewards when a challenging target is successfully met.

Executing this idea required introducing employees to a new structure involving customers and other stakeholders. The innovation-focused strategy that has been implemented to drive change within the entire Times Group has allowed the company to address issues such as: 

  • A declining interest among young readers. 

  • A .12% drop in circulation and declining advertising revenue. 

  • Digital media platforms that challenged print growth and sustainability. 

The programme seeks out and values disruptive innovation. It is an ongoing, structured, metrics-driven programme involving people across all levels that leads to entrepreneurialism, agility, and teamwork in the corporate culture. The innovation structure in the company allows for multi-pronged strategic input, conceptualisation and evolution of innovation, innovation delivery, and an enhanced user experience. 

The process can be thought of as an innovation funnel with three levels: 

Level 1: To inform and engage, communicate the plan and its challenges, determine what is to be accomplished, and describe what a good idea looks like. At this stage, management helps peoples submit ideas and supports the innovation process through tools such as an idea box and a committee that runs ideas through four filters: 

  1. Financial impact. 

  2. Implementation barriers. 

  3. Risks to the business. 

  4. Long-term impact. 

Level 2: Where “innovation champions” and mentors support the process, where an idea is accepted and developed. Leaders review and categorise ideas and select those that clear the four filters. Then they work to find an implementation method. That entails checking the technical aspects of the idea and selecting the best options for its implementation.

Level 3: Where ideas are actually selected for implementation, where an execution plan is built, then presented and reviewed by the COO, who makes a go/no-go decision. The product is then launched when appropriate. 

The company also executes “reverse innovation,” which is not just about doing more with less, but about doing better with less. Consideration of factors including quality, simplicity, value, affordability, cost, and sustainability is part of this stage. It has led to in-house innovations and significant costs savings in the technical arena.

Projects have included: 

  • Online gluing system.
  • Online slitter.
  • Online fragrance applicator.
  • Online perforating system.
  • Truck loading system.
  • Conveyor system.
  • Mini stacker.

The challenges and rewards of the innovation programme are different for strategic vs. operational management. Top management orchestrates company-wide change from above. Strategic management offers vision and direction, and is rewarded by cultural change. It implements training to develop the entrepreneurial skills of employees.

Both strategic and operational managers are engaged with team mentoring and are rewarded by the assurance of resources they need to innovate.

While top management orchestrates some change, however, there are local teams generating “radical” change from the bottom up. Some of those changes have included a continuous improvement group, re-engineering, and disruptive innovation.

When The Times Group/BCCL assesses the innovation programmes performance, it sees five “waves” of innovation in months-long stretches in which thousands of ideas have been introduced and executed: 

  • Wave 1: 80 executed.
  • Wave 2: 263 executed.
  • Wave 3: 928 executed.
  • Wave 4: 4,705 executed.
  • Wave 5: 14,012 executed. 

It also sees talent development among its employees, the product of various types of training, coaching and mentoring from management, and a reward culture that is nurtured to develop an agile and risk-taking workforce. Each of these areas has defined criteria. 

For example, the criteria for identifying talent are: 

  • Self-motivation.

  • Flexibility.

  • Being a team player.

  • Multi-tasking and multi-skilling abilities. 

Once talent is identified, the criteria for rewarding it include: 

  • A growth mindset.

  • Innovation.

  • Speed.

  • An obsession with customers and competitors. 

Rewards can be career growth, higher responsibility, awards and public recognition, and/or monetary benefit. 

There are also defined criteria for training needs and goal setting. 

Assessment of success covers four areas:

  1. Culture: All projects are measured against ROI. 

  2. Revenue: Relentless pursuit of revenue-generating innovation. 

  3. Process: Structured implementation by involving others. 

  4. Breakthrough performance: Quarterly ideation followed by rapid implementation. 

Ultimately, however, the goal is simply this: Building a stronger “frugal” organisation by driving systemic structural and cultural changes. 

Editor’s note: This is one of 17 case studies featured in INMA’s strategic report “How Media Companies Embrace the Process of Innovation.” 

About L. Carol Christopher

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