Book Review: Jugaad Innovation

‘Jugaad’ is a Hindi word meaning an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness. It can also be referred to as resourcefulness. Jugaad is a quintessential Indian business word, and a lot of frugal innovations in India happen through Jugaad.

The broad theme of the book – Jugaad Innovation – is that the innovation process in multinational corporations (MNCs) has become too rigid and complex, leading to huge costs of innovation and long delays in introducing new products and services. The book highlights that western corporations can no longer just rely on the old formula that sustained innovation and growth for decades: a mix of top-down strategies, expensive R&D projects and rigid, highly structured innovation processes. The book argues that the West must look to places like India, China, and Africa for a new, bottom-up approach to frugal and flexible innovation.

Jugaad, however, is not quite the panacea evangelists would believe. For every success story, there are several other Jugaad solutions that are not scalable, do not provide a performance enhancement over more traditional lean innovation and are only good for the short-term. The book also fails to touch upon why the concept of Jugaad is so Indian. At a deep cultural core, most Indians believe there is nothing rigid about life. Everything is manageable, solvable, and everything has a work around. For many, the existence of Jugaad is a testimony that systems in India are inefficient and corrupt. It indicates that Indians have no qualms about bypassing the system to get their way. It makes a person untrustworthy. For others, Jugaad is proof of Indian ingenuity and creativeness – a demonstration that Indians are not willing to accept fate and are willing to scurry a solution out of any problem. Nothing is insurmountable. Everything can be overcome.


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