Wednesday, August 22, 2012

COUNTERPOINT: JUGAAD, IS THAT WHAT INDIA/WORLD NEEDS TODAY?

Jugaad has become a celebrated Indian mindset that makes wonderful contraptions out of literally nothing, keeps the life going in difficult situations and earns a lot of respect in the community of innovators. Books have been published. A large collection of indigenous innovations are with National Innovation Council. More is being discussed now in celebrated management schools.

My first interaction with so called jugaad was when I was still in school and used to see a ‘tractor like vehicle’ roaming around in the village streets. This was essentially an irrigation pump used as a tractor engine with extra fitments of gear box, steering, wheels and a career trolley behind. Once this contraption reaches the fields, the farmer can take off the engine and use it as a regular water pump by the well. This was really an ingenuous idea of making use of things at disposal. Seeing connections in the scattered reality, making connection between the needs and the resources is jugaad. Grill Bears, the anchor of Man and the Wild tele-series on Discovery displays jugaad mind at every step of his journey. Making a make-shift shelter out of dead-animal skin in the Arctic, is about Jugaad; using socks to soak the water dripping from the rock and wringing that to drink is jugaad. Survival drives innovation. That is jugaad. But can this survival technique be used as a mass-solution to drinking water problem? No. In other words, can we drive a mind to really have a socks-soaking mode in a corporate realm? No. Answer is not so simple. Situations are not so simple. Individual insights have limited play in today’s world of innovation.


War-craft jugaad-toy made by a kid

Entire Jugaad-play kit

Mr. Ratan Tata is a great visionary and owner of one of the best known brand from the emerging world. Yet, his individual insight on a small car fell short of living the dream so far. Stories were written and are being written. Nano will surely see success one day, I am sure about it. But, not so far.

The point here is this- India today, does NOT need jugaad. Jugaad as a mindset is okay for some people to solve some situations for a limited period of time. Time for quick-fixes is over. Quick-fixing has actually killed people. It has tarnished the image of the country as the one producing poor quality products and manpower. Half the engineering graduates produced by this country are not immediately employable (several research reports show that). From hospitality to software industry, all rue the fact that Indians take twice the amount of time/manpower for the same job than a westerner. Poor joinery and poor quality of products around us is a result of this quick fix innovation, apart from the corrupt practices. Today, when India is struggling its way up to an economic superpower and people are ready to consume the better things in the world, it is time for an antidote to jugaad. I would call it Jugadesign. Sorry for adding new gibberish to an already confused world of innovation and design. But this is what we need. With all the freshness of Jugaad, we need to add the structured and comprehensive solution that ‘design thinking’ offers. Some amount of holism and integrated thinking is the need of the hour. A product is not just about ‘function’- today it is as much about materials, technology, psychology, ergonomics, economics and sometimes about politics. Jugaad-mind cannot handle all this load. Under the garb of quick and simple solution, it breaks the society’s alignment on all that is long-lasting, reliable, aesthetically pleasing and morally right. Power-yoga and hot-yoga etc. are good for the west, which is done with certain basics and is trying to find the zing in every thing new. For the emerging countries, it is time to look at things that no doubt are locally insightful & refreshingly innovative, but also holistically thought out, aesthetically pleasing and structured for long-life. So much for a small contribution to a sustainable world!! Live long.