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Cambridge expert says Indian ‘jugaad’ is lesson to world

india Updated: Nov 09, 2013 09:21 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
University of Cambridge

The time-tested Indian concept of ‘jugaad’ – a frugal and flexible approach to innovation – can be an important way out of the current economic crisis in developed economies and also holds important lessons for emerging economies, according to an expert at the University of Cambridge.

Jaideep Prabhu, Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise at the Cambridge Judge Business School, says that his 2012 co-authored book on ‘jugaad’ has found surprising popularity in countries such as France and Japan.

The ‘jugaad’ approach to innovation, he says, has important lessons for India as well.

Prabhu told HT today: “I am increasingly convinced that jugaad innovation is a frugal, flexible and inclusive way for India to grow over the next few decades. Such an approach taps into the native ingenuity of millions of India, across social and economic groups and across the length and breadth of the country”.

He added: “The interesting thing is that jugaad innovation also offers important opportunities for the rest of the world to follow suit. Not only can other emerging economies benefit from the lessons of jugaad innovation (I have seen the interest that Africans and Latin Americans, for instance have taken in jugaad innovation), but even the developed economies (reeling under the aftermath of the financial crisis) can benefit from it”.

Prabhu’s book, titled ‘Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth’, is co-authored with US-based innovation strategist Navi Radjou, and Simone Ahuja, founder of a market consultancy based in the US and Mumbai.

The book teaches the unique Indian approach to innovating and building businesses and has now been translated in French, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch and Italian (due out 2014) in addition to English and has sold widely in India. It has been widely received in Japan and France, Prabhu said.

The book discusses six underlying principles of ‘jugaad’ innovation: seek opportunity in adversity, do more with less, think and act flexibly, keep in simple, include the margin and finally follow your heart.

It cites several examples in India where low-cost innovation led to effective solutions and revenue streams. The book argues that a frugal and flexible approach to innovation can generate breakthrough growth not only in the developing world but also in the West.

During research, the authors discovered that the entrepreneurial spirit of ‘jugaad’ is not limited to India. They define the Hindi word ‘jugaad’ as an improvised solution born from ingenuity and using scarce resources.

They discovered that it is widely practised in Argentina, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines, and other emerging economies. Brazilians call it gambiarra; the Chinese, zizhu chuangxin; and the Kenyans, jua kali.

The book has been nominated for the Thinkers50 award in the Breakthrough Idea category which is named for CK Prahalad, the management thinker who first championed jugaad-type innovation to a global business audience. The winners are expected to be announced next week.