Actor-Network Theory and Informal Sector Innovations: Findings From Value-Added Products of Rice in the Food Processing Industry, Manipur

Actor-Network Theory and Informal Sector Innovations: Findings From Value-Added Products of Rice in the Food Processing Industry, Manipur

Wairokpam Premi Devi
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7027-1.ch009
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Innovations from informal sectors are often left out of both policymakers' and academic discourse, and hence deprived of the attention they deserve. Almost all the innovation actions in the informal sector are derived from indigenous knowledge, which unfortunately is not explicit in innovation system framework. The process of diffusion of knowledge from one generation to another is embodied in the form of social norms and cultural practices in informal sector. Thereby, key innovations get embedded into the system without noticing. Innovations in the informal sector are complex processes and need to be understood in their context. Thus, the research work will aim to understand the informal sector innovation processes. The authors attempt to see the local ways of solving problems through studying the case of value-added products of rice in the food processing industry in Manipur through the lens of actor network theory (ANT).
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Chances of a small firm to survive and to be successful are becoming ever more dependent on innovation. According to National Knowledge Commission (NKC, 2007), now numerous indigenous national agencies are competing with international agencies and companies and this became probable through the amalgamation of several aspects which includes capable ecology, developing capital, availability of labor force, superiority of products and facilities at cheaper prices. In a report on innovation, Dutz (2007) notes that, “innovation can be a critical driver of increased productivity and competitiveness and ultimately poverty alleviation … innovation is not an end in itself but a means to productivity growth and higher living standards” (p. 23). It is the ‘necessary core competence to stay in competition mode in new panorama’. Globalisation provides opportunities as well as challenges for nations to use innovation as a strategic lever to generate knowledge flows. It provides unprecedented potential for innovation to be used as a tool for revenue generation, so that nations with a strong knowledge base, can once and for all, escape ‘the stranglehold of poverty’ (Bowonder et al., 2010). Simultaneously, globalization generates difficulties for industries to either go innovation or perish. “In the race to the top slot, the only way ahead for companies is to innovate…the only way to stay ahead is to innovate” (Govindarajan, 2007). Thus, innovation has been a phenomenon for centuries, developed as a synonym for the growth of the countries, furtherance of the technology and as a driver of business success (Govindarajan, 2007).

The establishment of different industries has led to the development of many new ideas and knowledge that favorably facilities the innovation process in the industries. Actors and agencies involved in the field focusing to produce for a longer period, establishing close alliance with dealers, and launching their company labels through this process. Additional endeavor is cost cutting, bringing new products through innovation, less cost, and newly developed mode of supply. In innovation literature, Bigliardi and Galati (2013) has opined that food processing industry (FPI) is usually considered as a segment of less dedication to research area (Christensen, Rama & Von Tunzelmann, 1996; Garcia Martinez & Briz, 2000). These things should also need attention in the context of debate over hunger becoming a major catastrophe at world level. Many countries are not able to feed its people despite promoting several food and its processing related policies. According to the report (Global Huger Index, 2013), our nation stands in 63rd position in the list of 78 hungriest nations and UNICEF, 2013 reports that approximately 1/3rd of the global malnourished population resides in our nation. This shows that most of the population is not getting proper food. On the other hand, there is loss of 40 per cent of total annual food production, which costs $8.3 billion per annum to India. This result in increasing the fruit and vegetable prices by double the amount what they would be otherwise, and milk costs 50% more than it should. In this context, a FPI will support to prevail the major issues of our nation. A developed FPI and innovations will decrease the wastages of the resources and will enhance the payment of the farmers which is considered to be problem of the agriculture sector at recent times. Recognizing the need and importance of innovation, food industries are started incorporating innovation tool as a business practice that becomes essential for the survival and success for the firm. It becomes a well-known integral part of firm business practices.

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