Grassroots innovation vs Jugaad

Grassroots Innovation by Anil K Gupta

The latest book summary on is Prof Anil K Gupta’s Grassroots Innovation: Minds on the Margin Are Not Marginal Minds. What is grassroots innovation? As the name suggests, innovations that originate from the bottom of pyramid in response to everyday challenges are considered as grassroots innovation. That sounds good. So what is jugaad then? At bookbhook, we had earlier done the book summary of Jugaad Innovation- A Frugal & Flexible Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century. The authors in this book call jugaad as ‘spunky and smart art of innovation which helps us act ingeniously in adverse circumstances to come up with a solution that is both simple and effective.’

Now is there a play of words happening here? Grassroots innovation & jugaad  seem to be talking the same thing. People without resources facing a challenge put their meagre resources to build a solution to the challenge, like what Mallesham did to ease the pain of his mother who weaves Pochampally sarees. Prof Gupta quotes the example of Mallesham in his book as one of the many examples of grassroots innovation. So is Mallesham’s Asu machine an example of grassroots innovation or jugaad? My vote goes for Mallesham’s innovation being classified both as a jugaad  and grassroots innovation.

Interestingly. Prof Gupta cautions against encouraging jugaad mentality. However, he classifies jugaad as ‘mentality to solve a problem temporarily’. This was a penny drop moment for me. What differentiates jugaad and grassroots innovation is not the semantics but the intent-are you plugging the challenge with a temporary fix-it or are you using your meagre resources to find a solution to the challenge?

Creating a maze to access a liquor vend so that you meet the minimum distance from a motor highway regulation issued by the Honourable Supreme Court of India (picture below) is an example of jugaad. It should not be celebrated, unfortunately it is. Building a low cost refrigerator mitticool using nature’s principles is an example of grassroots innovation.

This is jugaad. Image source: Google

This is jugaad. Image source: Google

 When jugaad and frugal innovation are used interchangeably, just use the filter that Anil K Gupta suggests in his book – ‘Is the mentality to solve a problem temporarily behind the innovation?’ If yes, then it is jugaad and there’s nothing to crow about.

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