Jugaad: Innovation in India

I have a deep belief that innovation is culture. For any enterprise to thrive, they must drive innovation into all aspects of their culture. This certainly includes technology and products but extends beyond to areas such as Human Resources, Marketing and day-to-day business operations. Innovation is not something that can be driven solely from the top or from a single organization. It must become engrained in the very fabric of the culture.

I recently returned from a 10-day trip to India. The objective of the trip was to visit government, customers, partners, universities, and our internal sales and engineering teams. The current government is led by a business progressive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has established the “Digital India” and “Make in India” programs to drive digital connectivity and innovation respectively throughout the country. After several productive meetings, it was very clear that these programs are having a profound impact on the citizens and companies operating across India. More citizens are being connected to the Internet and accessing government services. Nearly 4,000 startups are thriving under these proactive programs that nourish and support their growth, predominately in and around Bangalore.

A convertible wheelchair designed by a team at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur enables independent access for user in ascending and descending stairs and others obstacles like curbs. Source: http://jugaadtoinnovation.blogspot.in/2013/01/indian-creativity-can-have-global.html?m=1

A convertible wheelchair designed by a team at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur enables independent access for user in ascending and descending stairs and others obstacles like curbs.
Source: Jugaad Innovation


Separate from these programs, the most impactful takeaway from my trip was the spirit and innovation of the people in particular. In India, citizens have become very familiar with the concept of Jugaad. Simply put, this is a colloquial Hindi and Punjabi word that means an innovative fix or simple work around, used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such, or a person who can solve a complicated issue. It applies to all manners of everyday life from the individual who develops a novel way to air condition their home, create a shower head out of a water bottle, or build a water pump using the wheel of a motorcycle. If you look closely, you see it embedded throughout the entire culture. The concept is very well described in the book, Jugaad Innovation, by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja.

A great example of Jugaad, a shower is created using every day objects. Source: http://www.funkyphotos.org/2012/06/funny-indian-shower-for-bathing-indian.html

A great example of Jugaad, a shower is created using every day objects. Source: Funky Photos

I do believe that Jugaad is a perfect representation of innovation is culture. When faced with the necessity to complete a task, applying all the resources available is frequently critical. The core notion of Jugaad is to be flexible, frugal and inclusive when finding a solution. It’s a concept that everyone could benefit from as we approach our daily lives and business challenges. We frequently find many reasons why something cannot be done…time, resources or money.  When faced with tough challenges, there is no doubt that scarcity is the mother of innovation.

A man moves bricks by using his bike as a transportation device. Source: http://topyaps.com/unique-things-in-india

A man moves bricks by using his bike as a transportation device. Source: Topyaps

This is an aspect of Indian culture that I find incredibly exciting. With the government establishing proactive policies to drive digital inclusion and government accountability matched with a culture built on innovation, I am extremely optimistic for the future of India.

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