Use Jugaad to Innovate Faster, Cheaper, Better
We recently attended the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2011 in Mumbai, where we moderated several panels and workshops on the topic of innovation. The experience gave us some insights into a unique approach to innovation called jugaad, which entrepreneurs and enterprises are practicing in complex emerging markets like India.
Jugaad is a Hindi word that loosely translates as “the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources.” Jugaad is an antidote to the complexity of India: a country of mind-blogging diversity; pervasive scarcity of all kinds; and exploding interconnectivity (India is adding 10 million cellphone subscribers every month).
This highly resource-constrained and chaotic environment inspires jugaad innovators — i.e., the Indian entrepreneurs and corporations who practice jugaad to develop market-relevant products and services that are inherently affordable and sustainable. Jugaad innovators are modern-day alchemists who transmute adversity into opportunity, and in so doing create value for their organizations and communities. And while we first learned about jugaad while conducting field research in India over the past several years, we’ve found that jugaad innovators exist around the world, including right here in the U.S.
There are three aspects of jugaad that make it particularly effective. Specifically:
Jugaad innovators innovate faster: Jugaad innovators don’t use linear, pre-planned, time-consuming R&D processes. Rather, they rely heavily on rapid prototyping techniques — i.e., they collaborate intimately with customers and use their constant feedback to zero in on the most relevant product features. For instance, Jane Chen and Rahul Panicker, Stanford graduates and co-founders of Embrace, worked closely with village pediatricians and patients in rural India to iteratively optimize the design of their breakthrough portable infant warmer — which costs less than 5% of incubators sold in the West (which are typically priced around $20,000).