Tradition and Innovations….. A Kashmir case

Where local products are given global touch in terms of marketing and branding

SHAHI KEHWA

SHEIKH FAYAZ AHMAD

Rightly described by Schumpeter (1943), ‘innovations’ are the engines of capitalism. However, innovations not only keep the capitalist engine moving and growing but it equally boosts the economies of the so called ‘communist’ countries. Innovations are rightly considered as the elixir of life for firms, countries and societies regardless of their size or other attributes.
So far the popular discourse among the innovation theorists, by and large, has revolved around the formal sector firms (big MNCs, TNCs etc.) and individual innovators or entrepreneurs (like Edison and Steve Jobs). However, the changes in the technological innovations during the last five decades have altered this discourse. A shift in innovation discourse is visible. From the revolutionary entrepreneurs proposed by Schumpeter (1934), to the Hippel’s (2005) concept of innovation communities one can experience the change in the innovation discourse. Today, western innovation theorists are more interested in the Southern Models of innovations (Africa, Latin America and Asia). For instance, innovation scholars from the west are increasingly debating and exploring the nuances of Juggad Innovations (India), Juakali Innovations (Kenya), Jeitinho (Brazil) and Zizhu Chuangxim (China). These informal innovations or more precisely innovations by ‘common people’ are gaining much popularity. What is this new thing called as ‘traditiovations’, how is this different from the innovations we already know and how relevant and important this is to Kashmir. 
To put it more precisely, traditiovations are simply new changes incorporated in the traditional and cultural things/processes using ‘modern science’ and technology. In Kashmir, we try to explore traditiovations by examining some of the products launched by a local company dealing with spices. Some of the new products (innovations) launched by this company are the classic examples of ‘traditiovations’. The startling findings of our study reflect the brilliant blending of culture, tradition and history with science, technology and art.
Here we can analyse only one of the company’s products -Shahi Kehwa. Kehwa or Kahwah - a traditional (tea) is prepared in a brass kettle known as samovar. The tea is made by boiling green tea leaves with saffron strands, cinnamon bark and cardamom pods. Occasionally, roses are also added for great aroma; crushed nuts, usually almonds or walnuts are also mixed for taste. Traditional way of preparing Kehwa is time consuming and a little expensive.  Some researchers also argue that the brass kettle ‘samovar’ is perhaps not the right pot to prepare Kehwa because the chemical concentration coming from samovar while boiling the tea affects both the taste and health (albeit not ‘scientifically’ proven). Although famous, no attempts were made to ‘globalize’ this traditional drink. But, the efforts of this Kashmiri Company in reinventing this traditional product at a global scale deserve special attention and appreciation. Many may see ‘Shahi Kehwa’ as a simple innovation or what we call incremental by nature, nevertheless the detailed observation and research of this innovation unfolds thousands of success stories. It not only adds ‘soft power’ to Kashmir and Kashmir Market but also reflects how ‘modern science’ can be best used to reinvent past. We see this innovation as a ‘glocalization’ attempt, where local products are given global touch in terms of marketing and branding. Looking at this product from the innovation and use–centric perspectives, one would conclude that Shahi Kehwa is a best blending of science, culture and research. What makes this product more famous and worth study is that the powder (readymade Kehwa) leaves no residue after preparation and the taste hardly changes during the course of preparation.
To cut the long story short, one would argue that traditiovations like ‘Shahi Kehwa’ is possibly the best reaction to the western models of economic growth and innovations, where ‘dirty industries’ and ‘destructive innovations’ are increasingly fused to our local markets. These western or precisely alien models of innovations are most of the times flawed, ethically repugnant, logically inadequate and ecologically myopic. The answer to all these unsustainable models of innovations probably is traditiovations or more precisely ‘localization of innovations’, a trend which is diametrically opposed to globalization.

The author is full time Researcher at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, School of Social Science, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and can be reached at fayazjustinternational@gmail.com

Lastupdate on : Thu, 1 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 1 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 2 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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