Jugaad or IT Destiny

Jugaad Innovation or IT Destiny

Whether you have or haven’t heard of “Jugaad” this article will inspire you to embrace it.

As for me, I discovered Jugaad, without knowing it by name, many years ago in my home town, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR). I remember visiting my grandmother, at her flat, with my dad. I remember the shower in the bathroom – PVC pipes fastened together and a plastic bottle, filled with meticulously made wholes, providing proper shower-spray, like any other shower.

I also remember very well the “Cuquitas” or “Motoconchos” – motorcycle taxis “upgraded” to transport more people than the manufacturer had intended, providing a much more accessible taxi ride for the masses.

When people are faced with resource scarcity, something beautiful happens: like magic!! They tap into the most abundant of all resources: “ingenuity” – solve challenges by “making more, faster, with less”. This, is the essence of the Jugaad way.

Frugal Innovation
Jugaad Innovation or the IT Landscape’s Destiny

Last summer, while attending the Wave exposition organized by “l’École Polytechnique” I met Navi Radjou, the strong proponent and Guru of Jugaad innovation. I also met Paul Benoit, founder/CEO of Qarnot Computing, a French Jugaad innovation company. Needless to say that I was blown away when I “officially” discovered Jugaad.

Discovering Jugaad was a reality check. It made so much sense because it applies so well to the IT/Customer Care/DCX/CRM and related industries.  I decided to take this a step further and contact with Dr. Jaideep Prabhu, one of the world’s Gurus in Jugaad Innovation, and Navi Radjou’s co-author for both books “Jugaad Innovation” and “Frugal Innovation”.

Jugaad & Frugal Innovation: The Books
Jugaad & Frugal Innovation: The Books

This blog article is the result of meeting Navi Radjou, reading “Jugaad Innovation”, interviewing Jaideep Prabhu, my own on-line research on this phenomenon & mindset and finally, my humble analysis of Jugaad, and how we can adopt it for the benefit our IT industry.

Today I want to focus in the following three main aspects of Jugaad : What is it and why is it relevant today, Provide examples of Jugaad companies in both emerging & developed countries, and Explore how the IT industry can adopt this “methodology” to its business.

What is Jugaad ?

Jugaad is a Hindi word which essentially captures the approach that many Indians use in their ordinary life to get things done. It’s a frugal, flexible and creative way of solving problems with limited resources.

“Jugaad : A Frugal and Flexible Way To Do Better With Less.”

 Why is it relevant today ?

In emerging countries Jugaad is better known because companies with constraint resources are trying to reach customer groups that are not in the obvious places.  Customers can be in urban slums, smaller cities, or the country side in places like India, Latam, Africa, or South & East Asia. These customer hold two strong denominators: (1) they have increasing aspiration and want to be part of the formal economy and (2) they offer a huge market opportunity for domestic companies and multinationals.

And here’s where the challenge lies: companies that are reaching out to these new market segments have to re-think their approach. They have to do it fast in a frugal, flexible, inclusive, and innovative way – the Jugaad way.  And what Navi Radjou & Dr. Prabhu have also found is that frugal innovation, is taking hold in developed countries too.

Let’s take a look at the drivers of this shift :

Resource constraint is the negative driver. This is particularly true in a post-financial crisis environment. But there are also positive drivers to embrace: (1) a new generation with a “greener” mindset and (2) the “maker movement”.

Indeed, about (1), generation Y and millennials, are concern about the environment and preserving natural resources. Yes, we DO want our kids and grandkids to enjoy a healthy world.  And (2) the “maker movement” – more and more people empowered to do more with less – with access to tools like never before, like cheap computing, smartphones/devices, internet, crowd funding, social media and even 3D printing.

Jugaad innovation seems crucial today, because the traditional innovation methods are insular, exclusive, driven by processes and controls, making the traditional “problem solving mindset” resource dependent, disconnected from the volatile market environment we are in. Also, customers today are technology driven, extremely demanding and price sensitive. It will be difficult to make them pay for products that need to recoup the “R&D investments” made when they will be able to find alternative solutions which are much more price effective “right next door”. Traditional innovation standards no longer work because innovation cannot be thought of as an “industrial process” anymore. This worked in the 80’s and 90’s, the golden years of economic abundance, but it won’t cut it in this day and age.

Jugaad seems like the right fit to answer our current business challenges. Many companies in both emerging and developing economies are embracing this approach and creating Jugaad solutions that are changing the world.

Let’s take a look at some examples of Jugaad in emerging & developed countries :


Many more examples exist. I encourage you to further dig into it. It is indeed fascinating !

How can these approaches be adopted to the IT, Customer Care Technologies, DCX and CRM related industries ?

Before answering this question, let’s bring forward two key points with regards to the software developer arena.

  • 1-  This landscape already holds Jugaad “traits”. You have probably heard that the essence of coding is to keep the code DRY. This stands for “Don’t Repeat Yourself” and it is a “how to do things properly” type of methodology. Similarly, code-sharing is a common approach; repositories like GitHub are a good example of this.
  • 2- The coding world is always looking for ways to not re-invent the wheel by leveraging frameworks that will enhance the work, make it cleaner, and more efficient – great examples are Bootstrap and Ruby-on-Rails.

For Dr. Prabhu, developers/programmers are Jugaad innovators because they are constantly trying to do more with less. He predicts that in the next few years a massive revolution will come from software and programming delivered by a mixture of both professionals and non-professionals from the “maker movement”.

Let’s imagine the following case study :

An IT service provider is a mature and established company in its market. Its traditional R&D delivery model has already defined and fixed this year’s budget to upgrade and deliver certain technologies.

The market, on the other hand is yelling for new technologies  that the company doesn’t have. The market also includes a myriad of startups that directly or indirectly do know, understand, work, and/or develop the much requested technology.

The Jugaad approach can create alliances with tech-startups around the new technology. The senior-company brings market insights, business opportunities and other resources; the startups bringing white-label technologies or branded formats as well as its flexible, frugal and creative mindset to the table.

The IT industry can adopt this methodology to its business! Rethinking a frugal, agile approach to new customer-centric solutions with iterative designs; basically a tweaked version of the lean-startup approach that is needed in the corporate world.

So, what are the common denominators to Jugaad innovators ? :

  1. Create opportunity out of adversity – MittiCool. After an earthquake where people had lost their livelihood, a Jugaad innovator creates the solution.
  2. Maker more with less – M-Pesa & Whatsapp. With limited resources use what’s abundant and keep the solution simple to use and maintain.
  3. Think & Act flexibly – If you cannot climb the mountain, find a way around it. Try to think “laterally”.
  4. Include the marginalized – M-Pesa and Compte-Nikel. Include them NOT only as consumers; think of how to use them as employees.
  5. Follow your heart – You have to be passionate. You really have to believe in what you’re doing. You have to be willing to spend time & effort to MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Frugal Innovation: Follow Your Heart
Jugaad Innovation: Follow Your Heart But Take Your Brain With You

In a nutshell :

Today our industry is facing more and more constraints from limited budgets, time, management and human resource, with volatile and extremely challenging technology driven demands from knowledgeable and quality/price sensitive consumers.  In this environment adopting Jugaad innovation is essential for companies that want to stay competitive in its game.  Leveraging strategies and open-alliances, asset-sharing, and co-innovation approaches will reduce time-to-market and will generate greater value to clients, while deliver the most efficient options for cost optimization.

Jugaad innovation is a crucial step towards the sustainable growth of our business but it is not the only one.  Jugaad innovation will need to be followed by an adaptation of the marketing and sales incentive accordingly.  Managers and business developers will need to be rewarded based on frugal-related KPIs, otherwise, they won’t see the point in selling frugal solutions.

Whether you call it “Gambiarra” in Brazil, “Zizhu Chuangxin” in China, “Tigueraje” in the DR, “Système D” in France, the essence of Jugaad is global, allowing us to do more business, connect the remaining four billion people to internet and thus to new/better opportunities in the world, while helping to nurture and preserve our precious planet.

Listen to the Audio Podcast – Interview with Dr. Prabhu by Carlos Lozano.


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