‘Jugaad’ The Indian Way of Life
Jugaad is a word most commonly heard in India. It implies quick fix solution to any problem. It is a common phenomenon observe on the streets of India in small ways like fixing things with safety pins, turning cycles into a mobile shop of necessities, selling clothes by displaying it on the trees and many more..
A new book on the block ‘ Jugaad Innovation’ talks about how jugaad can help you find great solution to problems and can turn any adversity into an opportunity.
The 3 authors, Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja, talk about this phenomena that is helping MNC’s to develop breakthrough paths to grow in this competitive market.
A little more on about this dynamic trio:
Navi Radjou is an innovation and leadership strategist based in Silicon Valley. He is also a World Economic Forum faculty member. He advises C-level executives worldwide on breakthrough growth strategies. Navi is also writing a book on new models of leadership.
Jaideep Prabhu is the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business and Enterprise at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. He has taught executives from ABN Amro, Bertelsmann, BP, BT, IBM, ING Bank, Nokia, Philips, Roche, Shell, Vodafone, and Xerox.
Simone Ahuja is the founder and principal of Blood Orange, a marketing and strategy consultancy with expertise in innovation and emerging markets. She regularly presents and consults to Fortune 500 companies across sectors, and contributes to a Harvard Business Review blog.
We got chatty with the trio and they had a lot to say to us on this topic which is widely growing and sweeping through companies. Here’s a look at what they had to say.
Today, global companies are talking about Jugaad as an effective approach to innovation. Meanwhile, jugaad is practiced in all Indian homes on a daily Basis, without giving it a second thought. What are some of the lessons that multinationals can learn from simple Indian households?
This is a great question. It is exactly because jugaad and the jugaad mindset is so inherent in Indians that Indians are well poised to apply the principles of jugaad to business practices. While jugaad can refer to quick fixes and low cost solutions, such as using a 2L Pepsi bottle to store pulses, use as a planter, a showerhead or even as chappals, it’s also a very important mindset. The frugality and the flexible rather than linear approach to problem solving exhibited in many Indian households is a highly effective one that companies can and must learn to augment structured innovation processes and to grow, particularly in times of economic volatility. Moreover, jugaad innovation is a great complement to more structured innovation processes, which leads to the creation of scale.
One of your favorite stories or ideas that you came across while writing this book?
There are so many outstanding and inspiring stories of jugaad innovation, particularly grassroots examples. One of those SELCO, founded by Harish Hande, a company that destroyed the myth, that the poor cannot afford and maintain clean technology. SELCO distributes solar energy to more than 200,000 rural households across India. For us he epitomizes the frugal, flexible and inclusive mindset of a jugaad innovator. First, he bootstrapped his venture with very limited resources and iterated on his model until he found one that works for him – ultimately, a highly innovative system of grassroots entrepreneurs who buy solar light and rent and distribute them on a daily basis. He added tremendous value not only for the communities he served, but also for the micro-entrepreneurs with whom he partnered which in turn sustained his own business model.
Another important finding that emerged while researching for and writing this book is that jugaad is not unique to India. In fact, similar approaches to innovation exist in many emerging markets including Brazil where it’s called jeitinho and China, where it’s called zizhu xuangxin – and even in the US, particularly among Generation Y and entrepreneurs, where there’s a growing DIY or do-it-yourself movement building that also calls for a frugal, flexbile and inclusive approach to problem solving.
Name 2 good companies practicing jugaad and how?
The Tata group is an example of an Indian company that practices jugaad. The Tata Nano is an outstanding example of the application of the principles of flexibility, frugality and inclusivity that are the hallmark of the jugaad mindset. So too with the Tata Swach. GE Healthcare is an example of a Western multinational that practices jugaad in India and elsewhere. The company used jugaad principles to develop a range of low cost ECG machines in India that it has also sold in other emerging markets as well as the West.
Before writing this book did you read any books on jugaad?
While we hadn’t read other books on jugaad, we conducted interviews with hundreds of grassroots entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and others in India to really understand the essence of jugaad. Interestingly, we found it means different things to different people depending on geographic region and socio-economic status, etc. We took all of these insights and distilled them into a definition of jugaad that underlines the best of it – a frugal, flexible and inclusive approach to problem solving and innovation. In a sense, it is an amelioration like “hacking”, which at one time had a negative connotation and now has found its way into the business lexicon with many corporations conducting hackathons to find solutions to problems. In this same way, we have extracted the best of jugaad since so many principles of jugaad innovation can benefit society at large.
Any tips on how can a startup company initiate and practice jugaad right from day one?
Startup companies (and the entrepreneurs that lead them) are the very epitome of jugaad. Our book and its principles are inspired by such companies and individuals. So for us to be telling startups how to apply jugaad would be a bit like us teaching fish how to swim! That said: two main principles of jugaad that are useful to startups are: 1) always look to get more with less (i.e., be frugal) and 2) always look to challenge conventional wisdom and look for non-linear solutions to problems (i.e., be flexible).
What made the 3 of you collaborate on such a project?
All three of us have unique perspectives that complemented our background and academic research for this book. It began with ethnographic research for a film series that Simone’s company, Blood Orange, was creating for a corporate client who wanted to better understand innovation in emerging markets and how it may be relevant in the West. For the series, Simone brought in Navi, then an analyst at Forrester whose focus was innovation and emerging markets, as an innovation consultant for the series. Ultimately, Navi left Forrester to work with Jaideep, a marketing professor at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, who was heading the Centre for India & Global Business there. Navi later brought Simone in as a consultant for the Centre. Much of our respective work was done separately, but with common themes particularly around innovation and emerging markets so it made sense for us to bring our interests and information together in a book like Jugaad Innovation.
Would the 3 of you be collaborating in the future also?
Absolutely. The three of us continue to write articles on the subject of jugaad innovation and frugal innovation for the Harvard Business Review blog and publications like Fast Company, BusinessWeek as well as many newspapers in India and the US. We also pursue individual study of jugaad based on our professional backgrounds, and share these learnings with each other. We won’t say yet whether a Jugaad Innovation sequel is in the works, but there certainly is a lot more ground to cover around this subject!