Don’t dismiss Jugaad as just a short-term fix
Over the last several years, we have conducted extensive field research in India, and it has become amply clear to us that India has its own unique approach to innovation — it goes by the name jugaad. Jugaad is practised by all Indians in their daily lives to make the most out of what they have around them.
Jugaad applications include finding new uses for everyday objects —such as using Coke or Pepsi bottles to store water — or building makeshift trucks (incidentally it is this rattletrap that gave this Indian phenomenon its name) from water pump engines and parts of bullock carts.
Jugaad should not, however, be written off as an approach that supports only local, short-term solutions. Rather, the jugaad approach to innovation can bring about significant long term socio-economic impact for the following reasons:
Because jugaad innovators are often faced with severe constraints and they target consumers who demand valuefor-money solutions, they are by nature frugal and expert in optimizing resources. They create “good enough” solutions that focus on deep consumer needs, rather than wants. This simplicity and focused design leads to solutions that function well, but eliminate unnecessary and often confusing bells and whistles that add cost but little value.
The fl exible mindset of jugaad innovators allows them to innovate faster, testing the impact of their products or services in the marketplace in real time, and quickly adapt to changes. They use on-theground feedback, not focus groups, to iterate, re-testing until they fi nd the sweet spot. This non-linear thinking often spurs breakthroughs that turn conventional ideas on their head to create new industry benchmarks.
Jugaad innovators create solutions with marginalized groups (low income, non-traditional) in mind, both as consumers and employees. This inclusive approach is refl ected in their very low-cost products and services that make these innovations accessible to a greater number of consumers, while generating employment and helping solve pressing problems in healthcare, energy and technology.
In sum, the jugaad approach to innovation is widespread in India. Indeed, it is increasingly being used to achieve low cost yet large-scale solutions to the major unmet needs many in the country face despite 20 years of growth.
Moreover, as we argue in our book, Jugaad Innovation: A Frugal and Flexible Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century, jugaad offers a powerful way to solve not only India’s major problems but also the world’s. One might even argue that jugaad will come to be seen as India’s unique and enduring contribution to the world.