FEATURES/Most Innovative Companies | Oct 25, 2012 | 29606 views

The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies

These firms set the pace when it comes to generating new growth ideas

Innovation premium: 73%
Sales growth1:  37.7%
Return2: 29.7%

In’s 13-year history, founder and CEO Marc Benioff has taken pride in innovating from within. That’s how he pressed for the release of Chatter, Salesforce’s Facebook-like tool for businesses. But this year, he’s spent $1 billion, the most ever, acquiring two firms: Radian6 and Buddy Media. “We couldn’t afford to wait,” says Benioff. These deals form the backbone of a new division within Salesforce, The Marketing Cloud, which will help brands know what is being said about them on social networks and then tailor messages to those audiences. Buddy Media places 10 percent of all ads on Facebook. Benioff has acquired 24 firms in all, and admits not all have succeeded. He is okay with failure, because that’s part of risk-taking. Everyone learns something along the way: “Innovation is a continuum. You have to think about how the world is evolving and transforming. Are you part of the continuum?”

2. Alexion Pharmaceuticals
Innovation premium: 72.3%
Sales growth:  46.5%
Return:  47.6%

Its anaemia drug Soliris will gross $1.1 billion in revenue this year. Shares have outperformed Apple since 2007.  



Innovation premium:  58.3%
(Internet retail)
Sales growth:  34.9%
Return:  26.3%

Has more than 20 million products in stock, and thousands of startups depend on its cloud computing services. Founder Jeff Bezos tops Forbes’ list of America’s best CEOs.

4. Red Hat

Innovation premium:  58.1%
Sales growth:  22.6%
Return:  23.9%

Open-source software maker passed $1 billion in revenue last year. Its CEO, Jim Whitehurst, likens open-source to American Idol. Both “are successful because the people choose”.

5. Baidu


Image: Reuters

Innovation premium:  57.6%
(Computer services)
Sales growth:  73.9%
Return:  50%

China’s leading search engine is also the fifth most visited site in the world.

6. Intuitive Surgical


Innovation premium:  54%
(Medical equipment)
Sales growth:  27.6%
Return:  20.8%

Its ergonomic da Vinci surgical robots allow a doctor to watch a live, high-resolution feed of a patient’s insides and operate through a one- to two-centimetre-wide incision. Some 2,300 of the machines are installed in hospitals worldwide.

7. Rakuten
Innovation premium:  51.5%
(Internet retail)
Sales growth:  18.3%
Return:  25.8%

The world’s No. 3 e-commerce firm owns a big stake in hot social network Pinterest. Its billionaire CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani, has a brash goal: Beat Amazon.

8. Edwards Lifesciences
Innovation premium:  46.9%
(Medical equipment)
Sales growth:  13.1%
Return:  33.7%

Invented the artificial heart valve in 1960. Valve replacements are now one of the most common cardiac surgeries in the US.

9. Larsen & Toubro
Innovation premium:  46.1%
(Engineering services)
Sales growth:  19%
Return:  -0.5%

India’s largest engineering firm builds ships, railroads, highways and bridges. Set to sell Toshiba’s plastics machinery business.

10. ARM Holdings


Innovation premium:  45.4%
Sales growth:  16.9%
Return:  27.3%

Designs the microprocessors in the majority of the world’s smartphones and tablets, and by 2015 may run a quarter of all notebook PCs.

This article appeared in the Forbes India magazine issue of 26 October, 2012
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Comments (1)
Jay Oct 26, 2012
How exactly do Infosys n LnT rank above Google and Apple?
D ranking just lists the companies with the most diversified operations, by no stretch the most innovative ones
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