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Cover Story

Jugaad Innovation And Medical Technology


“Innovation is going to be critical for India - not only for growth and competitive advantage, but also to ensure that our future development is sustainable and inclusive. Our country faces a range of unmet needs related to critical areas such as health, education, agriculture, energy, and skills. It also faces immense challenges related to demography, with 55 crore below the age of 25 for whom opportunities must be provided; disparity, driven by the multiple deprivations of class, caste, gender, and region; and the challenge of development, with the urgent need to lift crores of citizens out of dire poverty. Innovation is going to be central to providing answers to these most pressing challenges and for creating opportunity structures for sharing the benefits of the emerging knowledge economy. Affordable solutions, innovative business models, or processes which ease delivery of services to citizens will allow more people to join the development process and also enable  looking beyond the conventional way of doing things.”

- Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations; Chairman, National Innovation Council

Jugaad Innovation In India

Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi Word that roughly translates as ‘an innovative fix; an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness’. Jugaad is, quite simply, a unique way of thinking and acting in response to challenges; it is the gutsy art of spotting opportunities in the most adverse circumstances and resourcefully  improvising solutions using simple means. Jugaad is about doing more with less. ( www.jugaadinnovation.com)

Jugaad is practiced by almost all Indians in their daily lives to make the most of what they have. Jugaad applications include finding new uses for everyday objects kitchens are replete with empty soft drink or pickle bottles reused as containers for water, spices, or lentils or inventing new utilitarian tools using everyday  objects, like a makeshift truck cobbled together with a diesel engine slapped onto a cart (interestingly, the origin of the word jugaad, in Punjabi, Literally describes such makeshift vehicles).

Jugaad is practiced by almost all Indians in their daily lives to make the most of what they have with following six principles in mind :

  • Seeking Opportunity in Adversity

  • Doing More With Less

  • Thinking and Acting Flexibly

  • Keeping It Simple

  • Including the Margin

  • Following the Heart

Jugaad Innovation And Medical Technology : Both For Small Enterprises And Large Ones.

As per Mr. Navi Radjou , one of the three authors of the book on “Jugaad Innovating” (or low cost Innovation), “Jugaad is predominantly practiced by small enterprises because of the lack of resources they have as well as grassroots entrepreneurs who are trying to deal with various socio economic problems. Young innovators and small  entrepreneurs actually use jugaad as a way of surviving. Large companies may feel they don’t need jugaad because they have all the resources in the world, but with the slowdown of the economy, we are telling the large companies that the jugaad mindset is becoming relevant even for you”.

“Take the example of Siemens. It has come up with a foetal heart monitor which essentially measures the heartbeats of an unborn baby, something that relies on ultrasound technology, which is very expensive. So it ended up using microphone technology. Suddenly, it dramatically reduced the cost of the product, making it more accessible to a lot more people, especially in the emerging markets. Now it’s a good enough solution in the sense that it may not have all the bells and whistles of a high end product but it gets the job done. So, rather than thinking in terms of quality, which is a very western concept, we are saying that increasingly the notional value becomes more important. So, for Siemens, this is a whole new product line which is a good enough product, but it estimates that this is going to be a multimillion dollar business, not only in emerging markets but also in the West, in the coming decade.

Delivering a lecture at the Cambridge Judge Business School, titled ‘Challenges and opportunities for health care innovation in India’, Prof Balram Bhargava predicted India is to lead in a decade of frugal and affordable innovation that will impact on global economies.


Prof. Bhargava, who is the executive director of the Stanford India Biodesign programme, is a noted cardiologist and an expert in biomedical innovation, public health, medical education and research. He said: “There is a thinning medical pipeline in the west. Most of the manufacturing is moving to countries like India and China. The cost of production has gone up tremendously in the west and what is going to happen in the next decade or so is that countries like India, China and Israel will combine forces and work together”.

“Jugaad is predominantly practiced by small enterprises because of the lack of resources they have as well as grassroots entrepreneurs who are trying to deal with various socioeconomic problems. Young innovators and small entrepreneurs actually use jugaad as a way of surviving.

“Innovation centres are developing in these countries and they will probably develop devices that will ultimately be accepted by the west, be partnered by the west and therefore western companies will move to Indian soil to manufacture”

Some of the other known cases for Innovations in India are :

Jaipur Limb technology developed in Jaipur, the most functional and affordable limb technology in the world. The idea of making Jaipur foot was first conceived by Mr.  Ram Chander Sharma (Masterjee) who designed and developed the foot and the limb.

As per Dr. Geoffrey Osbourne, FRCS, at Royal Liverpool Hospital, “It may be that only in India can there be created such a combination of technical skill enthusiastic work and missionary zeal. The success of the service will have effect throughout the Third World and also for Western artificial limb technology if ever money was well  spent we have here the most profitable return in terms of relief of human suffering and disability.”

Developed in 1968 , Jaipur Foot is a handmade artificial foot and lower limb prosthesis. It has revolunized life for tens of thousands of amputees around the world.  This foot was originally designed to meet the needs of developing country  lifestyle such as squatting , barefoot walking and cross legged sitting.

Aurolab is also an amazing success story, made possible partly by the foresight and vision of its founder Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy (Dr. V) , and its committed customer , the Arvind Eye Care System, which give it the scale needed to commercialize its Innovations. With such a ready made market , Aurolab’s entrepreunerial managers were able to reengineer technologies available in the West to suit local conditions and design manufacturing systems that allowed it to provide inexpensive  lenses for Arvind’s low cost cataract system.

Much of the Aravind’s innovation is process driven, with huge cost advantages that come with indigenous wage rates of doctors and support workers. But the cost of lens could have broken the back of Arvind’s service model, and Aurolab’s innovation has been at the heart of the systems success. Bringing down the cost of the lens to US $ 5 was an astounding success.

R&D In The Western Industries: Pharmaceuticals

The Western industries that spend the most on R&D–computing and electronics, healthcare, and automotive – struggle to generate a steady stream of groundbreaking inventions, despite their hefty R&D investments. Hence there is a weak correlation between how much money your firm spends in R&D and how well it performs in terms of developing and marketing products that generate a significant financial return. To put it bluntly, money can’t buy innovation. Fittingly, a Booz & Company report carries a photograph of a dejected looking CEO wearing a T-shirt that reads: ‘We spent $2 billion (Rs. 10,000 crore) on R&D and all we got was this lousy T-shirt.’ The caption illustrates well the frustrations of Western corporate leaders facing, on the one hand, huge financial constraints, and on the other, immense pressures from shareholders to deliver growth.

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