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.
After 30 odd years in the global design industry opening doors to new and frontier markets through exploratory user research, concept design, and innovation strategies, Niti returned to academia as a student to pursue a PhD in Product Development at Aalto University's Design Factory. Her dissertation looks at the contribution of design methods to foster agency and capacity for innovation as a resilience strategy to shocks at the micro-level of the individual. Her research approach has expanded the multidisciplinary lens of viability, feasibility, and desirability to a transdisciplinary one where participants generate the actionable knowledge for their own innovation pathways.