Why I don’t like the word ‘Jugaad’

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The Hindi term Jugaad seems to have become synonymous with Innovation in India. I have often seen the term being used interchangeably with Innovation, sometimes even in the design community. In fact, a Jugaad movement has gathered a community of enthusiasts, believing it to be the proof of bubbling Indian creativity.

In my humble opinion Jugaad represents everything that is WRONG with the Indian approach to innovation. It literally means an improvised arrangement or work-around, which is quick and has to be used because of lack of resources. It is a frugal and ad-hoc approach to innovation that mostly focuses on making things cheaper but not necessarily better.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Jugaad mind-set has its significance as a way of finding quick and cheap solutions to day-to-day problems. A good example are the locally made motor vehicles used mostly in small villages in India which are made by carpenters by fitting a diesel engine on a cart. Unfortunately, I see the Jugaad approach being increasingly used in top companies in India as an alternative to real innovation. Instead of investing in serious R&D and fostering an environment for systematic innovation, some companies in India are adopting Jugaad as a practice to reduce research and development costs and are settling for incremental innovation at best.

Jugaad is not the way to go for companies in India with global ambitions looking to become the next Apple, Google or Facebook. The kind of creative and out of the box thinking which maximizes resources for a company and its stakeholders requires approaching Innovation as a true discipline and not just a buzzword.

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2 thoughts on “Why I don’t like the word ‘Jugaad’

  1. Good to see you blogging Saurabh, would be good to see more and frequent posts on similar lines. Jugaad philosophy goes well with this whole lean philosophy so I feel its a great way to start product design, definitely not a good way to ship awesome products. Jugaad shouldnt be about reducing costs, it should be about minimizing waste in the process.

  2. Thanks for your reply Sudhir. Completely agree. Jugaad is definitely about minimizing waste. The problem is that in some companies it becomes the dominant mindset and the de-facto approach to everything, and the objective shifts from trying to create something that is best-in-class to just about average.

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