20 Dec 2012

Book Review - Jugaad Innovation

“An innovative fix; an improvised solution born out of ingenuity and cleverness.”

That’s how authors Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja define Jugaad. While we Indians generally associate the term with a negative feel, the trio give it a much more holistic definition in their book Jugaad Innovation. The Economist states that this is the most comprehensive book to appear on the subject. Is it true? Well, you have to read it to find out.

The book sets off in Ramakrishna Nagar, a village in the desert of Gujarat, where a potter Mansukh Prajapati turned into an entrepreneur a few years ago. He designed and developed Mitticool, his version of a fridge. It’s a terracotta box entirely made of clay, except for a glass door and plastic tray at the bottom. Water from an upper chamber seeps through the side walls, cooling the lower food chamber through evaporation. The fridge consumes zero electricity, produces no waste, is completely biodegradable and costs merely 2000 bucks. Witchcraft, right?
Jugaad Innovation

There are other ingenious designs and business models across emerging nations cited in this book, which make it a pleasure to read. The concept of Jugaad, the authors say, is not restricted to India. The Brazilians call it jeitinho; the Chinese have their own term for it: zizhu chuangxin while the Kenyans term it jua kali. Gustavo Grobocopatel from Argentina, unhindered by scarcity of resources and funds, launched his company Los Grobo which is now the 2nd largest grain producer in the country thanks to Jugaad. Tulsi Tanti from Gujarat, faced with infrastructural bottlenecks while setting up a textile company, founded Suzlon Wind, the world’s 5th largest wind energy solutions provider. It examines business models of YES Bank & Future Group (the founders of Big Bazaar) and tells us why and how those unconventional models succeeded in India. This book is laden with many more such examples.

Research states that a whopping $550 billion (about 60% of the total borrowing by the Indian government in 2011!) was spent by western countries on R&D in 2010. Organizations’ constant desire to over engineer and structure an innovation process does them more harm than good. That’s probably why we witness many western firms filing for bankruptcy.

Hence, the authors explain that corporate entities can (and must) incorporate Jugaad to encourage innovation if they want to survive cut throat competition. They enlist 6 principles of Jugaad entrepreneurs, which are:

·        Seek opportunities in adversity
·        Do more with less
·        Think and act flexibly
·        Keep it simple
·        Include the margin
·        Follow your heart

These principles are elaborated upon in form of 6 chapters very well; each chapter also has lessons on how the corporate sector can use the respective principles to innovate. The book inspires not only corporate leaders, but also normal people like us to develop resilience, passion, flexibility, frugality, simplicity and empathy so that we can contribute to society. A foreword by Ratan Tata and an introduction by Sam Pitroda (who pioneered the telecom revolution in India) only add to its credibility. A good entrepreneur is one who can feed 1000 families, directly and indirectly. Let’s try and make ourselves capable of feeding even ½ that number. And the only way to do it is through Jugaad. Jugaad Innovation is a must read for everyone, whether we want to be entrepreneurs or not. It will make you exercise your mind and come up with ideas of small innovations which can make even your daily lives easier.
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