Jugaad An Indigenous Innovation Model from Rural India

Jugaad Innovation Model (JIM) when adopted by business organisations can supplement the new product development efforts and accelerate successful innovations which are co-created with rural consumers, writes Prof. Ajith P, Assistant Professor, KIIT School of Rural Management
Jugaad An Indigenous Innovation Model from Rural India

Rural people, who do not have sufficient required resources and infrastructure to meet their basic needs, are forced to find innovative ways in a flexible and frugal way to meet their needs. This approach has been traditionally called in Indian context as ‘jugaad’. Jugaad is practiced by almost all Indians in their daily lives to make the most of what they have. Rural people are in constant search of some ‘jugaad’ so that they can meet their needs and aspirations by not depending on costly alternatives which are available in urban markets. Increasing concern for sustainability has focused attention of academics, practitioners and public policy leaders towards extremely affordable frugal products and services.

Jugaad can be broadly regarded as a low-cost innovation, a coping mechanism, a quick-fix solution and sometimes an unethical way of getting anything done. It is the Indian approach of getting the maximum by spending the least amount of resources, many-a-times including time. Jugaad enables people to come up with quick, innovative and low-cost ways of solving problems and to make something work even when conventional wisdom says it isn’t possible.

The origination

India has vast population and there is big diversity in the social and economic status of its people. Indians are natural leaders in frugal innovations, with their ‘jugaad system’. They are masters of developing make-shift but workable solutions from limited resources. ‘Jugaad’ mindset is born out of historical scarcity and an environment of uncertainty, which emphasises ad-hoc improvisation and flexibility as a way of getting things done. Frugality is a very common attribute of majority of Indians and frugal innovation is very common in India. India’s villages have become a hot bed of innovation, as its rural poor develop inventions out of necessity. The resource constrained (mainly financial) context of rural markets where majority lead a frugal life meeting most of their daily requirements from natural resources is the natural context for jugaad innovation model to flourish. Unavailability of urban products or non-suitability of urban centric design motivates rural users to improvise the existing products to adapt it to local needs or development of new products from locally available raw materials. The rural markets and the large BoP within the rural markets provide a unique ecosystem which nurture jugaad innovations.

The guiding principles of jugaad innovation include; seek opportunity in adversity, do more with less, think and act flexibly, keep it simple, include the margin and follow your heart. These principles are expected to help drive resilience, frugality, adaptability, simplicity, inclusivity, empathy in the frugal innovation approach and output. Jugaad is a ‘bottom up’ innovation approach that provides organisations the key capabilities they need to succeed in a hyper-competitive and fast-moving world namely; frugality, inclusivity, collaboration and adaptability.

Model of Jugaad innovation

In the light of the findings on the meaning of jugaad (as described before) and the extant literature available till now, there has been developed a model for jugaad innovation. This model is an attempt to move closer to the grassroots and capture the thought process of rural people. Jugaad Innovation Model (JIM) when adopted by organisations can lead to inclusive marketing and there by contribute better to rural development.
Actors: JIM when adopted by organisations can lead to inclusive marketing and thereby contributing better to rural development. The actors of JIM are rural people who are creative with a desire to fulfill unmet needs. Their constant endeavour is to make products and processes which will facilitate their goal achievement with limited income and locally available resources. They will work with raw materials (mostly which are available locally) or on the existing products (some of them which are sourced from urban markets). The key goal of an actor is to meet the pressing needs quickly with available resources. The education level of actors can vary from illiterate to post graduates.

Process: The process followed is generally iterative. It is rarely linear and well planned. Flexible approach which is fast and frugal is followed to keep the cost low. Locally available products are used either due to unavailability of original spares/components or the high cost associated with them. The actors use their own creative and intellectual efforts. Traditional and indigenous practices are blended with locally available technology whether traditional or modern. The physical efforts needed to source the raw materials/components are also exerted by them.

Outcome: The outcome is generally an alternate option to costly existing product (mostly from urban markets) or a new product using locally available resources. The end products are simple, sustainable and highly affordable. The new products and processes are generally not patented.

Role in Inclusive Marketing

Marketing should be viewed as a process that encompasses all the facets of an organisation that are involved in making and fulfilling its promises to customers. Marketers have to change their role from implementers of traditional marketing functions to strategic coordinators of organisation-wide initiatives aimed at profitably delivering value to customers. Marketing should build a corporate-wide respect for the customer. The marketing team of an organisation should help management describe the business as pursuing a bigger idea (not just selling or marketing some offerings) that adds value not only to the core customers but to employees, other stakeholders and society as a whole. This will contribute to the vision and mission which in turn will guide and motivate employees to perform better. This will also help avoid marketing myopia or urban myopia. If marketing organisations have to sustain, the starting point has got to be the concern for human beings, who must be sufficiently empowered to consume by entering into exchange relationship with them. Organisations can no longer unilaterally devise products and services. They must engage stakeholders; from customers and employees to suppliers, partners, and citizens at large as co-creators. The key to jugaad is to clearly understand the customer problem. Always start with the customer problem and then go back for the solution. Checking for acceptability and affordability is critical as they are the vital components of 4As model of customer centric marketing and marketing success in emerging markets.

JIM model when adopted by organisations for new product development can follow the steps as given below.
– Study the customer need and current practices with context (adopt a zero based solution approach)
– Develop concept (try for co-creation)
– Develop marketing strategy
– Design the prototypes/process (use maximum of locally available resources) and follow empathic design
– Do test marketing (check for acceptability, affordability)
– Repeat the test in various locations and with different groups
– Undertake final modifications
– Commercialisation

Lessons for Rural Managers

Making affordable solutions for rural people especially the BoP is a big challenge for all organisations. JIM model will be helpful to understand the role and importance of jugaad approach in addressing the various challenges faced by rural organisations and society. JIM model can foster new product and process development to better address the unmet needs of rural consumers. JIM model will also sensitise managers to undertake co-creation of new products by engaging with idea rich rural people. JIM can be a powerful tool in the hands of managers to adopt inclusive marketing in emerging markets. JIM can make a significant contribution to accelerate the innovation efforts of organisations and thereby contribute to transformative goal of marketing. JIM can assist in co-creating better products for rural and BoP markets ensuring higher rate of product launch success in these markets. It also provides an approach for designing extremely affordable frugal products and services which have always been a challenge especially for MNCs, most of which aims to enter and serve emerging markets with large BoP markets.

Author: Prof. Ajith P, Assistant Professor, KIIT School of Rural Management

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