Indian Jugaad

March, 2017

At a recently held Vision Summit, the keynote speaker referred to how Indians find frugal ways of innovation to solve issues. He gave an example of how his apple iphone died on him suddenly on the day he had to travel overseas and how the authorised apple store wanted a week to resolve the issue. However, much to his surprise and joy, the owner of a small non-descript store in Koramangala, Bangalore fixed it in a few minutes. The store owner was not a qualified or trained engineer. He was a shrewd businessman with a nose for opportunities. He had ripped apart the iphone and reverse engineered the whole device and stocked every single part with the hope of repairing and replacing if someone needed it. Needless to say the cost of the part was minimal but he had charged several 1000 x times, considering what it meant for the customer. No great technology or innovation. Just innovative business idea executed brilliantly.

Many of you must have heard of the ‘Hole in the wall computer’ started by Dr. Sugata Mitra in Delhi for the benefit of slum children way back in 1999. Yet again a simple, brilliant idea to impart community-level low-cost computer education to the underprivileged children.

I have a personal experience to share. At a hospital in one of the congested areas, the reception and billing area is so small that there is no waiting area nor pharmacy on the same floor. No place for steps that people can use comfortably. When the billing person wants to order some medicines, she drops the prescription in a steel box and tugs at the rope tied to it. It is then pulled up to the first floor by the person at the other end through a hole in the ceiling. He fills the box with medicines and drops it through the hole again. Easy and innovative transmission – no technology, no nothing.

All these are ‘the Indian Jugaad’ or ‘frugal innovation’. Am sure each of you will have many examples like these to share. The 104 satellites launched by ISRO in one go must surely have been fuelled by such innovative ideas to keep the weight and cost low but effective. In this 4th wave Intelligence Age (as a speaker recently put it – Industrial Age, Modern Age, Information Age & Intelligence Age), what one needs is ‘Virgin Thinking’ according to me. Can you help………others and yourself ? Yes, by being a non-conformist and open to ideas, open to unlearn and relearn new things. Surprisingly a staid profession such as ours – compliance and governance is demanding this Virgin Thinking too, if we were to add value to businesses.

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