Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why 'Jugaad' is a narrow perspective on Indian Innovation

Innovation in India and from India is quiet different from those we have come to associate innovation with. Many people ask the question what innovation has India produced? Where is the Google and Facebook? I have stated before that this is a wrong question to ask. Most innovations from India are not directly market driven. For example, a digital signal processing technology that powers a washing machine or home theatre system may come from a company in Bangalore without the owner of the product ever realising that it is powered by Indian technology. Many of the innovations from India are in basic sciences (vaccines, pharma etc.) or what I call embedded technologies, processes and systems. They cannot be seen as Nirmalya Kumar from LBS explains in his Ted talk.

Many recent authors and commentors on Indian innovation have characterised Indian Innovation as "Jugaad", a term used in India to refer either to a low cost vehicle or, more colloquially to a fix-around. This characterisation of innovation not only undermines the value of innovations coming from India, it misrepresents the potential for innovation in India. Improvised arrangement or work-around, do occur in the lower end of the innovation hierarchy, due to lack of resources and particularly directed at solving a local problem but that is not an accurate representation. While Jugaad may happen in India, all Innovations in India are not Jugaad. Three types of innovations take place - there are innovations for global competitiveness, innovations targetted at the domestic market (impacting national gdp) and those for rural market (impacting rural gdp).
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