Innovation for the new times

Frugal innovation refers to an innovation of products and services with resource constraints, in contexts of certain urgency at low prices. It could be a solution to SME problems.

8 min read

The opinions expressed by collaborators are personal.

Innovation for the new times
Innovation for the new times

I recently had the fortune to spend a little over a month in the distant lands of India, this time gave me the opportunity to discover a little more about the complex and fascinating culture of that country. During a meeting in Bombay I found myself discussing with a group of friends about our experiences in innovation issues and how it develops in our respective countries.

I insisted that to be effective, Innovation must be quick, simple and adjustable . On the other hand, there were those who, from a more academic point of view, brought to the discussion the international definitions of Innovation and the sophistication of structured processes. After arguing for a long time, one of them finally asked me the question: You mean Jugaad ?

The definition

In 2012, relatively recently, the term “Frugal Innovation” appeared in a book titled Frugal innnovation how to do more with less , by two Indian authors Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabou .

It draws attention especially in critical moments such as the one we live in where we will hardly find a day when there is not something that removes the fragile economy, which has also been revealed in various international forums, that something has to change.

After the World Economic Forum and the evident figures of the economic slowdown, as well as the constant concern for the environment that has charged us with the last centuries of industrial development, is it possible that this term has the opportunity to put itself at the forefront of the possibilities that Does the human being have to generate what he is used to doing, which is to innovate, with the mediation of the needs of the present?

Frugal innovation refers to an innovation of products and services with resource constraints, in contexts of certain urgency at low prices.

Javier Campos Stivalet, Vice President Latin America Wadhwani Foundation

The term comes from the Hindi word Jugaad , which broadly means “makeshift or innovative solution” and involves fixing or creating new products with the least possible use of raw materials.

The aforementioned text and the concept have always gone hand in hand with the insertion in the economy of the segments with low purchasing power, among which are mainly those that inhabit emerging economies, however, given the conditions of the current economy, This activity has also spread to developed countries and healthier economies and is growing exponentially.

These innovations generate better business and social value than traditional innovations, mainly because they include four main characteristics: affordability, good performance, sustainability and utility.

Although the starting point has been the incipient need of the poorest segments of society, there are two characteristics that perhaps we are not taking into account and that could be a new and powerful starting point for this type of innovation, and this is the immediacy in the demand for solutions and the ecological emergency.

And it is that among the most interesting characteristics of this type of innovation is the low cost and the use or reuse of local materials and what implies the generation of income, improvements in infrastructure and distribution, as well as the reduction of complex laboratories to stay with basic engineering skills.

According to some analysts on the subject, there are three ways to shed light on frugal innovation projects: the combining of materials, processes and existing resources, which by itself also reduces time, materials and human resources.

At other times we have discussed the importance and implications of finding opportunities in needs. These ideas may sound empty when we do not have specific examples and we would not even know where to start in terms of projects and even more, in terms of the affordability not only of the resulting product but of the innovation itself, but let's put it in context and look closely .


Solution in emerging countries

How many problems do we have daily in a place like this, in a country like India, Mexico or anywhere in the world? We might ask ourselves, what do we have on hand and how much could we solve them through innovation, but the “frugal innovation” that allows us to lower our costs and use our minds as the only available resource in a world that ceases to have large natural resources? scale and that at the same time has brought technology to unthinkable and almost fictitious models.

Given that frugal innovation has been there for a long time as a solution in emerging countries, we now take a look at it because, furthermore, the state of our environment, which is increasingly fragile and whose characterization for the coming decades will be “in an emergency state” , we could give a twist and a renewal to this concept to rethink the possibilities of frugal ecological innovation that suddenly serves two fronts, changes in the economy, the state of our natural resources.

Related: This is the new way of understanding work

Perhaps Grandma's oil can made from a green bottle and a warm beauty, with a stopper recycled from some other that stopped serving long ago, is not only nostalgically beautiful, but a purposive creation of ecological frugal engineering that has also served at home for so many years that we have not been able to look at its beauty and usefulness.

Disruption and innovation are not always a spark of almost divine illumination; They can also resemble a moment of decision in which we choose to recompose what is and has always been there, by engineering our practical solutions in merely everyday environments. Isn't that innovation, in its purest and easiest to understand state?

Example in first person

When we realized at the Wadhwani Foundation that the backbone of economies around the world: small and medium-sized companies lacked consistent support to understand their problem areas that prevented them from growing, nor access to expert consulting, much less long-term follow-up. In the time frame to achieve growth, we decided to create our Advantage initiative to accelerate the growth of SMEs and we started the design from our vision of the final objective, we analyzed the available resources and launched into execution without thinking too much about the process.

Expert consulting has existed for dozens of years, there are SMEs all over the world that require help and service providers, clients and sources of capital have always been there, so there was a lack of a tool to detect growth areas, which would connect to the points correctly without friction and we develop the product that was launched on the market and today, 12 months later, the improved version of Advantage is a reality that has impacted thousands of companies in India, Mexico and Brazil, creating more than a thousand direct jobs and tens of thousands indirect.

At Wadhwani Foundation we have the mission of creating the millions of jobs that the world needs and from our initiatives we work to be the catalyst that allows entrepreneurship, innovation and skills of the 21st century to be the growth engines of Mexico and the world.

If you are a student interested in entrepreneurship, an entrepreneur who wants to grow in sales or an expert in a strategic issue and you are interested in knowing how to undertake or grow exponentially, write to me at and we will explore which of our programs and initiatives can help you or visit to learn about our mission.

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