The Economist writes about jugaad, referring to an innovative, low-cost way of doing something - as goods and services are provided in India at a fraction of the cost of those in developed countries. From the Tata Nano to the Chinese lithium-ion battery that's easier to make at less than one third the price, its the domestic conditions of scarce and expensive resources and materials coupled with less than wealthy customers that drive these jugaad innovations.
But its not all high tech or corporate R&D, says the article, as rural innovators are also coming in the limelight with their cost effective, grassroots solutions to everyday challenges,
Anil Gupta, of the Indian Institute of Management, helps run the Honey Bee Network, which encourages grassroots innovation in a number of countries. The projects he has been involved with include a refrigerator built from clay, which uses no electricity yet can help keep vegetables fresh for several days, and a cheap crop-duster in the form of a sprayer mounted on a motorcycle.
Many of these were demonstrated recently at a workshop held to promote Grassroots Innovation Design and Sustainability (GRIDS) in the Indian city of Pune. They hold a very real potential for sustainable solutions, developed as they are under conditions of scarcity, often repurposing or reusing materials, using the minimum of fuel or even recycling energy - for example, figuring out how to charge a cellular phone from the exhaust of a motorcycle. But the problem of funding remains as they're often under the radar of investors nor have the capacity to raise money. One hopes they'll find a way to inspire a new approach to product development in these recessionary times, a jugaad solution to conserve the future of our planet.
Niti Bhan focuses on offering strategic insight for growth opportunities and revenue generation in the rapidly evolving interstitial space between design and business. Her 15 years of experience include employers such McCann Erickson Worldwide, Hewlett Packard India, The Second City and most recently, the Institute of Design. She is an engineer and an MBA whose most significant achievement in the field of design has been dropping out of two graduate design programs on two continents in two centuries - the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and the Institute of Design, Chicago. Her areas of interest are business intelligence and trends, business strategy as well as creating a compelling user case for design as force for increasing value.