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The World's Most Innovative Companies

BUSINESSWEEK Magazine has published its list of the world's 50 most innovative companies in its issue dated April 28, 2008.

The list has been compiled by the US financial publication in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group.

The 50 companies are distributed, country wise, as follows:

USA 31
Britain 4
Germany 4
Japan 4
India 2
Canada 1
Finland 1
Netherlands 1
Singapore 1
South Korea 1
Total: 50

The two Indian industrial groups, included for the first time, are the Tatas and the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Group. The Tata group is ranked 6th and Reliance 19th.

The Tata group ranks well above IBM, BMW, Honda Motor, General Motors, Boeing, Audi and Daimler.

Mukesh Ambani's Reliance ranks above companies like Boeing, Exxon and BP.

Following is the small description about the companies. (courtesy : BUSINESSWEEK Magazine )

No. 50: American Express
To better serve specific corporate markets, the charge-card giant partners with others such as Web-based meeting company Starcite, to gin up new ideas. This has led to a new technology that helps business meeting planners reconcile what they budget for meetings and what they actually spend more quickly and with less hassle.

No. 49: Southwest Airlines
How do you get customers to pay more for a ticket when all of your flights are open seating? Southwest’s new Business Select customers get to board first, earn bonus frequent-flier credits, and get a free drink.

No. 48: Intel
For Intel, the name of the game is downsizing—the size of the die of a chip, that is. By rapidly mass-producing such chips using cutting-edge manufacturing techniques, Intel is enabling a new class of portable devices as PC and cell-phone makers stuff more technology into laptops and high-end phones.

No. 47: Vodafone Group
Spotting the potential for growth in emerging markets, the British mobile-phone giant partnered with Kenya's cell-phone operator Safaricom to offer mobile-payment service M-Pesa. Aimed at customers without bank accounts, the new service is being rolled out across Vodafone networks in Britain, Tanzania, and India.

No. 46: Dell
When Dell’s fortunes plummeted in 2006, part of the problem was that it had stopped listening to customers' complaints. In 2007 the PC giant earned kudos for using technology to address that problem, including a Digg-like blog called IdeaStorm where customers can suggest new products and services.

No. 45: Nike
Long-known for whizzy new sneakers, the shoe and apparel maker is bringing its creativity to the virtual world, creating its Nike+ digital community where runners share routes, get training advice, and even compete against one another.

No. 44: BP
The oil giant likes to say its initials stand for Beyond Petroleum. And indeed, it’s one of the largest vendors of solar panels in the world. But pipeline spills in Alaska and a deadly refinery explosion in Texas in recent years indicate the company still has work to do.

No. 43: News Corp.
Trading old media for new, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire sold off its stake in satellite operator DirecTV. Meanwhile, its Fox network launched the Hulu service with NBC to jumpstart TV viewing on the Web. Its MySpace social network does deals with Hollywood talent and launches its own TV shows, creating the new media version of network TV.

No. 42: Exxon Mobil
The world’s largest oil company is no energy hog. Its new generation of liquefied natural gas tankers carry 80% more cargo than previous versions, but are more fuel efficient.

No. 41: Bank of America
The banking behemoth launched several new services last year in response to customer concerns about fraud. In one, a code is sent to users’ cell phones to gain access to their online banking accounts. Recent envelope-less ATMs also scan checks and print copies on customers’ receipts.

No. 40: HSBC
One of the world's largest banks, HSBC has managed to win 125 million customers in 82 countries by developing a strong global brand and adapting it to local customs and cultures. The British banking giant relies on local managers to build its business.

No. 39: Costco Wholesale
Always trying to figure out a way to cut prices and give its bargain-hunter customers another reason to stuff their shopping carts, Costco has convinced farmers to grow bigger chickens. The warehouse retailer stands out from rivals by mixing bulk goods and luxury surprises, such as designer jeans at a discount.

No. 38: Siemens
Siemens may be dealing with the aftermath of a bribery scandal, but the company’s R&D labs are still hard at work. Recent products include the world’s smallest portable ultrasound device, not much larger than a cell phone, which can be used by doctors in ambulances or other emergency situations.

No. 37: Singapore Airlines
Because airplane food gets such a bad rap, the airline’s catering department does regular menu tastings in a special conference room in Singapore with the same pressurization and humidity levels of a plane at 39,000 feet. Taste-bud sensitivity declines 35% to 40% at altitude, so chefs add extra seasoning to compensate.

No. 36: ING Groep
The online banking arm of this Dutch financial giant, ING Direct, was a pioneer in consumer finance, with high-interest savings and no regular branches. In its U.S. ING Direct business, executives are frequently moved from one function to another to promote collaboration; the unit's internal "Innovation Pipeline" site offers a place for employees to swap and vet creative ideas.

No. 35: Cisco Systems
Given its success at acquiring technology, the networking giant has always struggled to prove it can innovate in-house. Now it’s trying harder than ever. In 2007 the company’s home-grown, $60,000-plus telepresence videoconferencing systems emerged as a popular CEO perk. More recently, Cisco has announced major upgrades of its basic switches.

No. 34: Verizon Communications
Under CEO Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon is betting it can become the leading provider of broadband services. It is spending close to $20 billion laying fiber-optic cables, to let it provide super-speedy Internet connections and digital TV signals. Company executives expect its wireless arm to generate double-digit sales growth for the next few years thanks to data services.

No. 33: eBay
After years of making acquisitions such as Skype to add new services, eBay took its basic auction site back into the shop in 2007 for the biggest overhaul since it started selling Beanie Babies in 1995. Now, shoppers can search more precisely for exactly what they want, and see the results in photos using a window-shopping metaphor. So far, this hasn’t eased concerns about rising competition from Amazon.com—but it’s a start.

No. 32: Starbucks
Howard Schultz is back as CEO, and he’s obsessed with enhancing the Starbucks customer experience. To reach his goal, the company is adding a new social network-cum-comment box called MyStarbucksIdea.com. Other new additions include one-cup brewers for high-end coffees and specially designed waist-high espresso machines that will make it easier for baristas to chat up customers.

No. 31: Daimler
The German premium carmaker cultivates the best up-and-coming engineers, whose recent innovations include a low-emissions, high-mileage motor. It uses the same self-igniting principle as diesel but runs on standard gasoline.

No. 30: McDonald's
What’s new under the Golden Arches? Almost everything, from a wider choice of breakfast items to comfier surroundings to 24/7 hours at more and more locations. But McDonald's is focusing on more than just time-based innovation: It plans to add premium coffees to its menu in 2009.

No. 29: Audi
Company engineers look to biology for inspiration, studying the structure of insect wings to design car-body structures. To develop the top-of-the-line R8 sports car, Audi studied the streamlined shape of a swimming penguin.

No. 28: Virgin Group
Whether it's sending tourists into space, flying jets on biofuel, or setting up the world's first mobile virtual network operator, pushing boundaries is the Virgin Group's MO. But Richard Branson's biggest innovation is his own company: He has turned Virgin into a branded venture capital firm where partners provide the bulk of financing in exchange for the Virgin brand.

No. 27: AT&T
To stay ahead of the nation's changing demographic trends, the wireless-service giant employs a team of social scientists who travel the country studying how text messaging is used in different communities. That data, combined with information from its R&D labs, help the operator offer cutting-edge phones and services.

No. 26: Samsung Electronics
Samsung boasts a stream of innovative products dreamed up by its six design centers in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Its supply-chain superiority, standardization of parts, and sharp design capability have helped Samsung become the No. 1 TV brand in the world. It hopes a new minimalist model using a casing reminiscent of crystal will be a big hit this year.

No. 25: Facebook
The company’s decision to open up its platform to third-party developers sparked a wave of new programs and spurred most major Web sites, such as Yahoo! and Google, to follow suit. Now the first-timer on our list is redesigning its site to let users add more info and programs under tabs on their personal pages.

No. 24: Target
To avoid fighting rival Wal-Mart solely on low price, Target continues to distinguish itself as a more upscale and trendy discounter through its designer brands and snappy advertising. It recently launched “GO International,” a series of clothing lines by high-end designers that sell for no more than 90 days.

No. 23: Wal-Mart Stores
Using the same muscle it uses to drive down prices, the world’s largest retailer is turning size to its advantage to become a leader in sustainability. It’s helped create the market for energy-efficient light bulbs and pushed suppliers to reduce packaging size to cut waste.

No. 22: 3M
CEO George Buckley has been on a mission to kick-start growth. He’s loosened the reins on his massive stable of researchers and plans to hike R&D spending to $1.4 billion, or almost 6% of sales. 3M’s latest wonder is a miniprojector, the size of a thumbnail, for use with mobile devices.

No. 21: Goldman Sachs Group
Sometimes innovative firms know when to stop following the herd. When the subprime market started going belly-up, Goldman Sachs reversed its positions. While its competitors lost billions in real estate investments, Goldman made $4 billion by shorting high-risk mortgages.

No. 20: Boeing
The world is awaiting the arrival of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which, manufactured with 50% composites, promises to be lighter weight and use 20% less fuel than conventional commercial aircraft. The globally sourced project has been plagued by delays, however, which have begun to overshadow excitement over the plane’s groundbreaking technology.

No. 19: Reliance Industries
The Indian petrochemicals giant made it onto our list this year thanks to fans of its aggressive growth. But its ambitious plans to reach into grocery retailing, which is dominated in India by small shopkeepers who’ve rebelled against corporate entrants, have faltered.


No. 18: General Motors
CEO Richard Wagoner Jr. is making design a top priority in his efforts to jump-start GM’s struggling business, giving stylists a first crack at new models before engineers. Add in new hybrid-electric SUVs, along with plans for the ultrahigh-mileage Volt in 2010, and it’s clear GM is trying to shake its stodgy image.

No. 17: Walt Disney
Disney is Hollywood’s leader with online offerings—it was first to ship its TV shows online. These days it’s filling the Web with social networks for kids that let them become avatar “fairies” or join communities of pirate-playing gamesters. Digital revenues will jump this year by 25%, to $1 billion.

No. 16: Honda Motor
At a time when most carmakers are worrying about high gas prices, sales of fuel-efficient Hondas are growing. Next up, the automaker will introduce gas-sipping clean diesels, small affordable hybrids and, in 2010, a private jet that’s 30% more fuel efficient than rival offerings.

No. 15: Hewlett-Packard
The 69-year-old info tech company’s Innovation Program Office helps it to absorb the startup vibes from recent acquisitions. The new service “CloudPrint,” developed in a matter of months and inspired by the iPhone, helps users send documents to printers from their mobile devices.

No. 14: BMW
While other carmakers talk about hybrids and electric motors, this German maker of sports sedans has concentrated on getting the most out of existing technology. As a result, the latest BMWs and Minis challenge the Toyota Prius for gas mileage and low emissions.

No. 13: Research In Motion
Twenty-eight million thumbs on 14 million devices say RIM still dominates the wireless e-mail market. The makers of the ubiquitous BlackBerry are now reaching into the vast consumer market, putting it on a collision course with iPhone maker Apple.

No. 12: IBM
With over 3,000 scientists at IBM Research, Big Blue has been the leading U.S. patent winner for 15 years in a row. Now the new head of research, John Kelly III, plans on making bigger and bolder bets. One example: trying to invent the next-generation transistor.

No. 11: Amazon.com
Now far more than an e-tailer of physical goods, Amazon.com has added the ability to download videos and MP3s. And it's selling the very Web services it uses for its own operations to hundreds of startups, which employ the back-office tech programs to run their own companies.

No. 10: Nokia
The Finnish handset maker employs anthropologists who study mobile-phone users in emerging markets. Their insights have made Nokia the leader in India and China. As it pushes beyond hardware into Web services, it’s tapping outsiders to create games and offer feedback.

No. 9: Sony
Now that its electronics business is healthy and Blu-ray is the new DVD standard, Sony's priority is online content. Its PlayStation 3 video game consoles will soon feature Home, a 3D social networking and gaming world, and PlayStation Network, an expanded channel for music and videos.

No. 8: Procter & Gamble
The world’s largest consumer-products maker has out-hustled rivals in new product launches through more spending on design and willingness to turn to outsiders for ideas. But P&G is just as creative in finding new markets: It's now pushing to sell its products in overlooked neighborhood stores in developing regions.

No. 7: Nintendo
The video gamemaker is new to our top 25 after its wildly popular Wii console tapped an entirely new gaming audience. It recently launched a Wii fitness game that makes staying in shape a family affair. New service WiiWare will soon offer indie programmers a low-cost way to deliver games online.

No. 6: Tata Group
The Mumbai-based conglomerate jumps onto our list for the first time, fueled by its paradigm-busting $2,500 “Nano” car for the masses. The car, from its Tata Motors unit, is the world’s cheapest, thanks partly to a distribution model that sells the auto in kits to entrepreneurs who assemble them for buyers.


No. 5: Microsoft
Often mocked for following rather than leading, the software giant tapped its vast research arm to launch Surface, a new touch-screen computer that moves a step closer to the Holy Grail of natural user interfaces. To catch up with Google, it continues to pour research funds into perfecting search algorithms.

No. 4: General Electric
CEO Jeff Immelt is so encouraged by GE’s “ecoimagination” initiative that he’s raising the revenue target for green projects from $20 billion to $25 billion by 2010. This year, the industrial giant tapped Dartmouth prof Vijay Govindarajan to be its own in-house “chief innovation consultant.”

No. 3: Toyota Motor
Determined to retain its mantle as the hybrid leader among carmakers, the Japanese company plans to roll out a more fuel-efficient Prius in 2009. It’s also trying to match rival GM’s promise to deliver a plug-in gas-and-electric car using lithium ion batteries. Toyota is targeting 1 million hybrid sales annually by the early 2010s.

No. 2: Google
The search giant, which last year hiked R&D spending 72%, took on Microsoft in its own backyard with a concerted push into online office software. This year Google will try to expand beyond search ads into banner and video ads with its $3.2 billion acquisition of display-ad firm DoubleClick.

No. 1: Apple
Our repeat winner has rocked the wireless handset world with the iPhone, spurring rivals to imitate the touch-screen design. After just nine months on sale, it’s already No. 3 in the global smartphone market. Meanwhile some 150 million iPods have been sold since 2001.

Comments

HarshilJK said…
wow! as an Indian i feel mighty proud! I think there should be such a list for innovative SME's as well. I know one such company - Deskaway . Its supremely innovative as its a project management cum CRM tool for small businesses around the world. So its a business that both delivers globally as well as supplies globally as opposed to some Indian businesses that deliver locally and only supply globally if you know what i mean. Iv been using the tool for a while now and ive been supremely impressed. It was featured at Proto.in - the startup event this year as well. In the international community as well its created quite a buzz - kicking BaseCamp's (a preferred competitor) ass at times :)

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