The new global formula for breakthrough growth, or just creative quick-fixes done by someone facing an immediate pain? Is it time for all of us to take a frugal approach in our innovation processes?




This is Jugaad – grassroot innovation in India

All existing rules are bent in the attempt of solving a challenge with whatever is available. Grassroot Innovation the Indian way. “Out of the box” thinking – driven by little or no resources at all. Do more with less!

Using the same water twice? Of course! Cooling two rooms with one AC? Obviously! This is what Jugaad is all about.

This is the typical Indian Jugaad innovator:

They are lead users. They face needs right now, and hence will benefit significantly from an immediate solution. They can not wait for the marketplace to provide the Innovation. So, they seamlessly create and adapt -positioning themself even before the start of the adoption cycle as we know it.

Is the value of these low-cost hacks limited to solving acute problems for the innovators themselves?

The innovation process is obviously considerably compacted, resulting in very few steps from recognition of the challenge -to actual production.

The roles involved are also certainly limited to very few persons. It’s good reasons to believe that the spotter, inventor and the process manager – is one person. I assume the finance and production department is also headed by the same guy, so decision-making must be smooth.

No one know the actual need better, so working sessions with a Jugaad innovator that has even developed a prototype, would clearly reduce R&D and efforts required for a breakthrough. Simply because the solution may already be operational and accepted by end users.

If you happen to be an accelerator or angel investor, I suggest a couple of days in the streets of an Indian city -searching for Jugaad innovation. You could pick up on the best prototypes, add a hint of conventional innovation- and commercialization models – and help bring some of the products to the marketplace.

 Where is the Jugaad shop?

I have never found the Jugaad shop selling pants for cooling down two rooms with one Air Conditioner. So, does those innovations ever reach a larger group of consumers?

Help me find good examples of innovations that has succeeded in the journey from the streets to the shops. Please drop me an email at


 Jugaad that made it to the showrooms?

Less is more. What a great way to use water wisely. Did you notice the Indian Jugaad version of the same in the illustration above? Photo credit: Sink Positive –


Frugal innovation – doing more with less

Jugaad is increasingly more accepted in Frugal innovation. Frugal is simply “doing more with less” in other words reducing the complexity of a process or removing everything but the very essential of a product. Why? To introduce cheapest possible products and services, primarily ment for emerging economies. Markets where no one care about the quality, as long as the basic features are in place and it is cheap enough.

“Keep it simple, stupid” – meet the cheapest car on the planet

Photo credit: TATA

Trough frugal Innovation the Indian TATA group pioneered creating the affordable city car called NANO. Price when it was launched in 2008 was 100 000 Indian Rupees (USD 2000 at the time) making it the cheapest car in the world. The price is up 50% since then, but still cheap.

Visit the TATA NANO website

Jugaad space mission?

It doesn’t end with cars, in September 2014 an Indian spacecraft entered orbit around Mars, after its 661 million kilometer flight. It’s said that the low-cost mission operated with a budget around 10% of a similar US project. Bloomberg business article about the Frugal mission.

It is creativity that ignites innovation – or isn’t it?

I have looked closer at a few of the traditional characteristics of a creative environment; a trustful management that does not over-control, little fear of negative consequences for making a mistake and selection and promotion of employees based on merit. Hmmm, that doesn’t  fully match with my overall observations in India.

You guessed it, we are talking about a totally different approach to innovation. An alternative bottom-up approach, with grass root entrepreneurs seeing and acting on opportunities right in front of them. Powered by the need of a cheap instant hack, rather than by creativity.

Not only for emerging markets

The highest need for Innovations that deliver high value at less cost – are in emerging markets. Let health care and energy be examples of areas were great frugal innovations are needed. However, marginal segments are present in all countries.  I believe most of us could get used to more value for money, and less buttons on the remote control.

I was exposed to Jugaad long time before visiting India

Even if I grew up under optimal conditions in Norway, I am far from unfamiliar with “do it your self innovations”. My father was teaching in daytime and indulging in frugal activities at night. Visits to our family farm introduced me to a jugaad mindset decades before my first visit to India. I witnessed workarounds that would have impressed even MacGyver. My transition to Indian hacks was pretty smooth.

Time for a frugal and flexible approach

Can we deliver the needed future breakthroughs with the very formal innovation processes of the western world? Or will it be too slow, rigid and expensive for the fast changing needs ahead? Let’s bring the Jugaad spirit into innovation. Let’s go “quick, simple and cheap”

Trond Skundberg