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Is Jugaad a Good Thing?

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Ramkumar Mohan

Head – IT & CISO

Orbis Financial

India’s known for its ability to maximize resources and produce high-quality products and services. That’s jugaad.

Ayes

India is known as a country for jugaad, not only in the way we do business, but even in the way we live. Jugaad is quintessentially an Indian philosophy and is rooted in our culture. Here’s an example of what I mean. We are a deeply superstitious and religious people, evident from the fact that we consult astrologers before taking important decisions. But if the stars aren’t favorable, we resort to jugaad, usually in the form of a gemstone, a prayer, or a mantra.

Jugaad is creativity; its low-cost innovation. Jugaad is what put the Tata’s Nano on the world map.

India is known for its ability to do more with less. That’s also jugaad. Today, this slogan is being chanted in corporate forums in the west as a great business strategy. Given today’s economic climate, this philosophy is finding relevance and acceptance. Why has India become an outsourcer’s delight? It’s because of our innate ability to maximize resources and produce high-quality products and services.

I prefer solutions that are quick, cheap and get the job done. That is jugaad. Here’s an example. Our office was designed to accommodate 50 employees, with network connections built for as many. But soon we grew. One solution was to dismantle the existing architecture and re-do the entire design, sinking in a few lakh in the process. Instead, we decided to attack the problem creatively. The network administrator installed a four-switch at the network point, such that now we can accommodate three people in the place originally meant for one. We got the job done—at a much lower cost.

Sure it can create some discomfort, but we met organizational demands. In an ideal world, where there is no dearth of resources, money and time, jugaad is irrelevant. But we don’t live in an ideal world.

Anuragi Raman

Associate Director, BPEX Deployment Leader & Head IT

Motilal Oswal Securities

Creativity in business is about providing cost-effective solutions that have sustainable benefits. Jugaad is, at best, a short-term fix.

Nays

In north India, they’ve made these automobiles which are nothing but small vehicles put together by carpenters and loaded with a diesel engine. These vehicles are known for their poor brakes, and their inability to go faster than about 60 km/h. It’s Jugaad, and it’s poor quality lives up to its name.

Jugaad has a lot of limitations. Jugaad is an ideation by an individual; to call it innovation is wrong. Innovation has to follow a cycle of process that should sustainable to solve a problem, and it should address an unstated need in the long-term. Jugaad, on the other hand, is a short-term fix.

Innovation is what Apple does. Apple’s products—be it the iPhone or the iPad—were designed to provide a long-term sustainable solution to unstated needs. Jugaad is, at best, an innovative fix, a solution that bends the rules. All other English equivalents of jugaad be it hack or kludge, come with negative connotations.

Jugaad is championed as a solution that optimizes limited recourses. First, I believe the term ‘limited resources’ is used very loosely. More importantly, maximizing resources to boost productivity is not innovation, that’s just plain efficiency.

Four years ago, in my organization, we had a rather rudimentary contact center and were looking for a solution to improve the experience of our callers. One of the ways to do that was to listen in on a call and improve the performance of our agents. But the software we had at that time didn’t offer a facility to do that. That’s when the vendor suggested some jugaad; he suggested that we barge into a call from another extension. At that time it sounded like a good solution; it would meet our needs at no extra costs.

But the solution would not meet our needs in the long term; sure we could listen into a call, but we couldn’t record it, store it, or replay it.

Jugaad gives instant reprieve from a problem, but its effect soon wane out. Creativity in business is about providing cost-effective solutions that have sustainable benefits. To forester creativity we need to set people free, and not bound them by rules and regulations or excuses of limited resources.