I was watching this interesting conversation between Anand Mahindra, Chanda Kochhar, Arun Maira and Rajan Anandan about how to make “’India – the next innovation superpower”. This Google Hangout webinar was organised by Mahindra Rise and was moderated by the infamous Arnab Goswami, who actually allowed his participants to talk!
While Arun Maira was of the opinion that an ad hoc ingenuity done frugally and swiftly to create a makeshift arrangement (Jugaad) cannot make India the next innovation superpower, Anand Mahindra felt that there must be a distinction between ad-hoc ingenuity and process driven innovation. Mahindra said “Frugal innovation is good, but we need to move from Jugaad to Jhakaas!”
That made me wonder, what is this Jugaad and why has it become such a buzzword in the Indian corporate world? I suppose the authors of the recent “Jugaad Innovation” are to be blamed for the surge in popularity. By definition, Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, sometimes pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such, or a person who can solve a complicated issue. The term ‘Jugaad’ finds its roots in the Sanskrit word ‘Yukti’ which has been corrupted in Indian languages, roughly translating to “overcoming inconsiderate constraints by devising an efficient solution using limited resources”.
There are two streams of thought on this Indian innovation –
- Puritan stream – Jugaad is considered a derogatory term to describe our attitude to bypass all obstacles and fix things. Noted scientist Dr Raghunath Mashelkar feels India’s image in the global scientific community has taken a beating because of the tendency of “jugaad” in making innovations affordable.
- Frugal innovation stream – This stream considers it as an undeniably Indian approach of unearthing novel, ground-breaking ideas, for which one needs one to have an out-of-the-box thinking.
One may call it as, ‘Indian style of creative ingenuity’, other may say it’s just an “crooked makeshift solutions”. Whatever you may call, Frugal innovation is a burning topic today as post-downturn business-oriented start-ups and companies seek ways to produce more, while keeping an eye for affordable inputs. This requires practicing the gutsy but enterprising art of frugality. Innovative, inventive, and ingenious, a Jugaad is probably has a key to all locks. All and sundry in India yearn to find a Jugaad an an option to solve a tricky problem. One can even have a broader perspective, like we do, and call it as “an art of creative improvisation constrained in a framework of profound knowledge and experience”. Seems quite interesting! Right?
Why Jugaad is a promising alternative?
The spirit of Jugaad is incarnated in the aptitude to work with limited available resources, nevertheless, also building something germane and valuable. It also personifies a spirit of clever impudence that commemorates workarounds, quite often at the expense of established and well-settled structures. When Napster came by the side of the viral populace, they over lied “peer-to-peer” sharing on top of customary digital infrastructure as well as thumbed their noses on the big music labels. Western corporations are lacerating multi-billion dollar R&D budgets, crowd sourcing research projects globally, and tasking teams to turn up with innovations quicker.
They are being skilled to apply Jugaad ideologies, which may be anticipated as a kind of bottom-up approach which involves just about rebuilding the product for the target-market. A live example running on streets around you is the $3,000 Nano car made by Tata Motors in India, which was developed from the bottom-up to put together an inexpensive car for an average middle-class Indian. The whole structure revolves around various Jugaad innovations from the Indian streets themselves. Hence, Jugaad is perhaps a promising alternative when it comes to cost-effective solutions, primarily focused in bringing up an inexpensive, eco-friendly (at times) and profitable product.
Here are a few ideas that have turned out to be eco-friendly Jugaad innovations