Forget “Jugaad,” Let’s Focus on Innovation with Quality

by Kapil Poojari on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 in Features

I must confess, the first time I heard of Jugaad, I burst out laughing. I could not believe that a management guru had converted the much maligned Indian term ‘Jugaad’  or ‘Innovative fix’ into a business management concept.

Here are some popular definitions of Jugaad.

Many years ago, innovative Punjabis mounted a diesel irrigation pump on a steel frame with wheels, creating a vehicle they called jugaad. The term became popular and ‘Jugaad’ was born. ( Economic times ) . According to Wikipedia : “Jugaad” is also a colloquial Hindi word that can mean an innovative fix, sometimes pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such or a person who can solve a vexatious issue.

Leading business publications have devoted several pages to this concept.

Business Week : Called jugaad, India’s improvisational style of invention focuses on being fast and cheap—attributes just right for these times while HBR says that Jugaad is a Hindi term roughly translates as “overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources”

Whatever be the views of the management gurus, I am not convinced that Jugaad is really something to be emulated. I recently came across Sunil Malhotra, CEO Idea Farms who shares my views. He says that ‘Jugaad, is the most fashionable innovation thread about India these days. Several innovation ‘gurus’, management experts, authors have latched on.’

Here are the reasons that Sunil Malhotra thinks that – Innovation is NOT the same as Jugaad

  1. Jugaad really means ad-hoc, unplanned, just-make-do, random, untrained. At best it is ‘creative misuse’ of resources. It cant really be called ‘improvisational creativity’ or any such thing. It’s almost like saying that you can use duct tape to fix anything.
  2. Jugaad can also create poor quality products that may be unsafe and uncomfortable. 

You can call it as “constraint based innovation” or frugal engineering, the fact remains that this term is being coined as a major driver of growth. In a recent survey by the Legatum Institute, 81% of Indian businessmen said Jugaad was the key reason for their success.

The innovation coming out of Jugaad is interesting, but what bother’s me is that are we compromising on the rules and regulations, safety and standards?  Aren’t we the people risking our lives and livelihoods by implementing Jugaad without a second thought ?

Let’s face it, its impossible to contain or control innovation. But, can’t we set processes in place that new products and services are only brought to market after we are sure that safety and quality standards have been met.

For better results and better lives lets forget about Quick Fixes and focus on Better Quality instead.

Photo Credit :Meena Kadri