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Voltas scores for best innovation

In a survey conducted in April 2008 by BusinessWeek and BCG, the Tata Group was ranked as the 6th most innovative group in the world -- the outcome of determined and coordinated efforts made at the Group level, driven by the Group Chairman.

But who are the front-runners in innovation within the Group? That was answered at the Innovation Day event held in New Delhi in early June 2008, under the aegis of Tata North Regional Forum, at which an entry from Voltas' Unitary Products business was adjudged the 'best Innovation', sharing that limelight with one entry each from Tata Tea and NDPL.

This was in the face of formidable competition from heavyweights such as Tata Motors, Indian Hotels, TCS and Tata Teleservices. The three selected entries will now compete at the all-India level on 28th July 2008. The event was staged with the guidance of Tata Quality Management Services and Tata Group Innovation Forum, led by R Gopalakrishnan, ED-Tata Sons, who was the Chief Guest at the event.

The Voltas product innovation, developed at its Pantnagar plant, is a breakthrough improvement in the familiar Freezer-on-Wheels which keeps ice cream frozen while being trundled through the streets by vendors.

The eureka moment occurred following a gap analysis between existing product offerings on the one hand, and the requirements of ice-cream manufacturers, distributors and vendors on the other. This process helped define the problem and opportunity, and the parameters of the solution. While validating the solution in the lab, technical challenges were encountered and overcome sequentially by means of innovative adaptations; the final outcome was then validated in field trials.

The freezer thus developed is longer lasting than the existing product due to the elimination of corrosion which is rampant in other brands available in the market; is more economical, lighter in weight and easier to pedal, and keeps ice cream frozen longer when disconnected from the power source while in use on the streets.

Voltas has filed to patent the technology, which has wide applications far beyond the Freezer-on-Wheels. The patent status may well have tilted the scales in favour of Voltas during the jury's deliberations at the North Regional Forum.