India's way of frugal, flexible innovation

Jugaad Innovation : A frugal and flexible approach to innovation for the 21st century: By Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu & Simone Ahuja; 2012; Random House India; Rs 499 ( hardback)

Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word meaning an innovative improvised solution. It could be a piece of ingenuity turn adversity into opportunity. Possibly for the first time, three technology watchers all with India in their DNA, have treated the jugaad type of innovation with seriousness and some rigour – and they suggest that it might well challenge the way traditional organization think and act.

Their research suggests that many global industry giants like, GE, Google, PepsiCo, Philips, Renault-Nissan and Siemens as well as resp[ected Indian companies like Future Group, Suzlon and the Tata Group have absorbed the lessons of jugaad-style innovation and are profiting by it.

They move beyond India to suggest that entrepreneurs are already practicing jugaad in emerging markets in Africa, China and Brazil. GE Health’s development in India of affordable ECG machines, Tata’s creation of the Rs 100,000 Nano car; Dr V. Mohans mobile telemedicine clinics in South India as well as the attempts to craft a truly affordable Tablet PC for education – the Aakash experiment – are already engaging academia as case studies of frugal innovation, much as the instinctive management skills that underpin the daily lunch distribution ecosystem of Mumbai’s dabbawallahs did a few years ago.

The book is not just fascinating, but necessary reading for all those who have a stake in kick starting innovation within their own organizations – and have to deliver with whatever means are available. 

Elsewhere on this portal, we have featured a UK study by NESTA that covered similar ground (Our Frugal Future: lessons from the Indian innovation system ) and have linked media stories on Renault-Nissan’s own experiments in jugaad ( ).

Jugaad Innovation goes down that same path and holds a mirror to some very Indian business practices that they never taught you at Harvard and other big name business schools--Anand Parthasarathy/ August 4 2012

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