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January 1, 2011

Author: Venugopal Chepur

Jugaad, more than an Indian mantra,
a mindset!

Many have written about “Jugaad” the Indian art of ‘smart work – which means the art of improvising to develop an effective solution using limited resources to make things work. Yes – make things work! The significance of this phrase goes far beyond the simple definition. It is a ‘mindset’ that has become the foundation for day-to-day challenges through brought about despite a history of limited resources. This ongoing commitment and determination is the spirit that moved through creative solutions all distractions and obstacles that would ultimately result in “somehow” finding ways and means to make things work. The task at hand would be rendered a success, whether it be through creative insight or frugal innovation. We can also use another simple Hindi word to represent the spirit behind “Jugaad” – “Karaado” which means ‘get it done’ – as go-getter!

Let me explain this by offering a very simple example. Imagine a farmer riding a bullock cart who finds the ‘cotter pin’ on the wheel of his cart breaking loose. His reaction is unlikely to search for a repair service, mechanic, or an alternative means of transport. Nor is it likely that our farmer would be willing to wait until someone could locate a suitable replacement pin. He would search around to replace the pin with ‘something’ from his surroundings that would serve as a temporary solution until he returned home. And that attitude and spirit is at the heart of a‘Jugaad’ mindset! – finding a solution and making it work regardless of the circumstances.

So the basic capability of the Jugaad mindset is to use a design or a solution-oriented thinking for mundane challenges, without even realizing that it is called improvisation in some cases, and reverse engineering in others. This mindset is extended to finding solutions to newer and more acute challenges resulting in many quick and frugal innovations in India. This promotes ‘inclusive business models’ when applied to wider business needs that deliver more value at lesser cost for more people – be it in agriculture, healthcare, education, energy, or financial services. There have been several innovations that have benefited these industries; to name a few: Low-cost ventilator, Jaipur Knee (a low-cost, high-performance prosthetic knee joint for amputees), A urinary catheter, Solar lanterns (a cheap and green alternative to oil-based lamps), etc.

If JUGAAD is used for finding ways to innovate for manufacturing goods, then it should be considered useful within the service industry. If so, JUGAAD should be applicable on a global basis especially within those sectors that are seeking to grow in a competitive and complex environment that is resource-constrained. So adopt JUGAAD as a full-service solution. Fundamentally, JUGAAD is based on the premise of simplification since the spirit is to ‘get things done. The spirit of making customers win (somehow?) needs to be digested by those that tend to ‘over-standardize’ each process, perhaps in a hard-wired fashion. Otherwise, it is not a viable option. It is also essential to realize the fundamentals of JUGAAD will also seek to ignore the rigid and often antiquated rules that have been espoused for many years.

It is common knowledge that many organizations have created cumbersome and bureaucratic processes that often require large groups of people to decipher the tools for solution that often result in unacceptable delivery delays. Such companies must get to know the meaning of JUGAAD and its pathway to satisfying their customers and making certain that work is being done in a timely manner. I know for a fact a few firms have gone too far in using tools to build and store their business processes to an extent that it will take a business manager humongous effort to lay hands on a capability or a process and incorporate modifications, despite complaints that customers were experiencing huge difficulties when transacting. Such companies must get to know what is Jugaad and adopt the spirit to ensure customer’s work is done.

Consider this: I was required to call a security system firm to register for the rebate I was entitled to. After 20 mins on the call, I couldn’t finish the registration process, and the reason was I did not have my ‘customer number’ handy! The Service Rep had left me with a feeling that it was ‘not easy’ to deal with the company. If the company would practice Jugaad, despite inadequate IT infrastructure to be able support the Call center rep to complete the process, they would find ways to ‘somehow’ complete the process – say, via email to make it just a few clicks away! The company lost an opportunity to create that enchantment that comes with this interaction!(as Guy Kawasaki puts it!) ‘

Unlike traditional, structured innovative methods that rely on time-consuming and expensive processes, the JUGAAD approach delivers service with flexibility, agility, and cost efficiencies with the fundamental mindset to “get it done”. It is increasingly evident and imperative that businesses within all sectors must grow to appreciate and adopt the spirit of JUGAAD, apply it to process innovations, and also to most of its business architectural endeavors. So adopt Jugaad as one of the process improvement tools, and keep winning!

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