I came across a blog post by Idris Mootee, a business strategist and innovation specialist, that talks about the severe limitations of the whole jugaad discourse, which has now almost developed into an obsession. Mootee writes,
Let’s start with the question around innovation in India and is it really happening? Or happening enough? Well the answer varies depending who you talk and what industry sectors you’re referring to. For the Indian pharma industry, it is not without trying but there were no commercial or very little success so far. For the auto industry, there are moderate successes but I won’t call it breakthrough innovation. For IT mainly software, there are hardly any effort and it is not because of there’s a lack of money or talent. These tech companies understand the risks and it is easier to just write codes and make money.
…They need to stop thinking innovating only at the bottom of the pyramid but start to build aspiration for innovation for bigger ideas. Instead of engineering down products to fit the needs of the limited buying power constrained mass markets, they need to start thinking engineering up for products that shape industries in the developed markets.
So India is innovating, but not necessarily in the right sectors and not using the right methods and processes. Moreover, Mootee maintains, Jugaad is by no means a purely Indian concept – rather, it exists in many different emerging economies as well, and other places that suffer a lack of adequate resources and technologies, which are forced to appropriate existing materials creatively to make up for this lack. Indian innovation, he maintains, has the potential to make a major impact at a global scale, but jugaad is not the means for this change. We need to move to a different kind of innovation paradigm, which focuses on creating value. But first, as Mootee says, we need to create an innovation enabling culture:
Every country has a different need for innovation and needs a different strategy for innovation… Some have a steeper climb in bringing design into the engineering process. By bringing together different sectors of society to think and talk about innovation in a structured manner, India can bring about a new and higher threshold for innovation thinking and practice.
This is exactly what we aim to do through the Design Public platform, bringing unlike minds together to address the large common problem of how to transform India into a society that routinely innovates for the larger public good. It is one of the the only ways to systematically move away from a culture that not only accepts, but celebrates, mediocre quick-fixes and improvisations, and to move into a culture that routinely addresses the needs of its citizens to create products, services and systems that generate real value.