What can start-ups learn from India?

Three lessons from Indian movement Jugaad that will help your business overcome constraints

Saurabh_Khanna_thumbnailWith a rather humble beginning, growing up in a middle class family in New Delhi, I would have never in my wildest dreams imagined that India would become what it is today.

Everyone has their own perception of India, but from what I can see, the country is one big entrepreneurship powerhouse.

With the population reaching 1.3 billion, being good is not enough. One needs to innovate – every step of the way, and to be able to innovate often – you need to innovate fast, very fast! And this is where Jugaad comes in. Every Indian entrepreneur has gone through his or her share of Jugaad.

I’ve been away from India for a little over 12 years now, but the concept of Jugaad just seems to get bigger every year.

So what is Jugaad?

Jugaad is a Hindi slang word that over time became a Wikipedia recognised term, and eventually turned into a movement!

The word Jugaad picked up so much traction that even publications like Harward Business Review (HBR) wrote about it at length.

HBR defines Jugaad as “the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources.”

In my view Jugaad is simply finding the quickest way to innovate within given constraints, a skill that’s essential for any start-up or small business owner.

In India, more often than not, success isn’t achieved without overcoming adversity – so constraints become challenges rather than insurmountable problems.

In the UK, we could do with using the Jugaad mentality a bit more, to help us from catastrophising issues.

In particular, here are a few takeaways from Jugaad we could all learn from:

1. Innovate with iterations

Keep your constraint in mind, but rather than let it intimidate you, focus on breaking it down into smaller, and therefore more manageable, problems.

Rather than spend an inefficient amount of time trying to discover a magic solution, mould and bend the constraint until you can find multiple solutions to your problem that you can iterate until it’s no longer a constraint.

2. Use resources at hand, but think outside the box

Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with a brand new idea. At times, the best innovation may lie in taking existing innovations and piggy-backing to increase your reach.

Fact: An Indian social network called GupShup started with a journey to disrupt the social networking space in India. They soon realised that the answer to this innovation was not in making another Facebook for India, but simply leveraging the power of a basic communication channel – mobile SMS!

3. Collaborate with smart people

Two brains are better than one. Three brains are better than two. Throw the problem at your peers and ask for their suggestions. Don’t be shy to push them to solve the problem. Sometimes, you can ponder a problem for months with no solution and a fresh pair of eyes can come up with a suggestion in minutes.

In Hindi, the saying goes “Yaar, Jugaad laga de!”, the literal English translation being “My friend, do a Jugaad for this.”

Jugaad is not a scientific process, and it certainly isn’t a replacement for a proper research method and execution, but start-ups are often cash-strapped and time poor and the Jugaad concept is all about finding a simple, and cost-effective work-around.

Saurabh is the CEO & co-founder of Seed Recruit, an online recruitment platform. You can get in touch with Saurabh on Twitter @_SaurabhKhanna or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/saurabhk01


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