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Jugaad: Is Frugality a Pathway to Innovation?

March 23, 2015

In 2013, India launched a spacecraft to orbit Mars. Total cost for the project (which has been a rousing success): $74.3 million. That’s less than one-tenth of what NASA spent on its Mars space orbiter — and less than the total budget of the 2013 sci-fi blockbuster Gravity. How did India do it on such a tight budget? Navi Radjou says it’s an example of Jugaad innovation at work.

“Jugaad” is a Hindi word that roughly translates to “improvised solution.” Radjou, the best-selling author of a pair of books, Jugaad Innovation and Frugal Innovation, says it’s an idea whose time has come for Western businesses. “NASA’s Mars mission MAVEN cost nearly $700 million,” he says. “In India, they asked, ‘How can we do it cheaper?’ They created virtual [prototypes] using computer simulations. They reused technology from previous projects. They also designed the satellite to be smaller and had it orbit longer around Earth to gain more velocity when propelled, which required less energy.”

Radjou also points out how a growing number of developed world corporations — including GE, Procter & Gamble, and PepsiCo — are employing variations of Jugaad. One compelling example involves French car manufacturer Renault, which used Jugaad principles to create the Logan, a car that hit the market with a $6,000 price tag and quickly became an international hit.

To read an interview with Radjou and learn more about Jugaad, check out the 2015 Access 25, our list of the people, places, and ideas defining global connectivity. The current issue is available online. Sign up for a free subscription online.

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