Jugaad: Frugal Innovation or Hacking the Indian Way? I Wired (Oct 2013)

By Abhijnan Rej Relocating back to India for good a couple of years ago and to one of the new emerging “technology hubs”, I rediscovered a perennial Indian problem—long power cuts during summer. One such summer, the Indian media was toasting itself about the comments of a mid-ranking US official who described India (as US officials were then apt to quite often, during the salad days of 8% GDP growth) as the world’s next great superpower; I actually got to read about it a couple of days later, after having finally the chance to charge my laptop battery.

Discussing this quite-everyday/quite-paradoxical event with a friend prompted an interesting theory on his part: Electricity or no electricity, India will indeed become a superpower, as long as the Indian spirit of “jugaad” is around. “Jugaad”, my friend argued, will get us past these “little problems of sustainability” like lack of steady electric supply (his words) and drive India through alternative paths to global greatness. My friend is not been alone in this sentiment. The notion is gaining rapid traction in think-tanks and corporate boardrooms in New York and Mumbai as a “new management principle”. Senior Indian Foreign Ministry officials are speaking gushingly about the concept. New books are coming out, the captains of industries in New York are being briefed about it, and the Indian corporate world is being toasted for presenting such “novel solutions”.

Link to article