The Naya Jugaad


Adversity has become the ‘New Normal’. Either you throw in the towel quickly or keep on fighting the issue. When you choose the latter, adversity becomes your ally and ignites your ingenuity to unearth revolutionary solutions that yield amazing value for yourself and for humanity. Your reaction can empower you to see threat as an opportunity for personal and collective growth.

Corona has created a level playing field, everyone is messed up, no one is unscathed. So big or small, all players start from the same line. This is good news for nimble and lean organisations who think on their feet. What’s truly liberating is that the new normal has no set benchmark, norms or parameters, perfect conditions of a Jugaad.


As the global economy freezes, everyone is looking for new inspiration. Enter Jugaad: A ‘frugal’ form of innovation developed in India. The Hindi word ‘Jugaad’ describes an improvised or makeshift solution using scarce resources. It’s a way of life in India, where washing machines are used for whipping up yogurt drinks, but it’s also an innovation theory that’s proving to be increasingly influential in the marketing departments of many corporations.

For a good Jugaad to work, you need to understand consumer needs and then work back – even if that’s as simple as deciding the price that people can afford. The consumer is front and center here, and marketers are central to driving the jugaad.
As you embark on your new Jugaad journey, first you need to understand the new normal.

Thanks to computing tools, social media and remote apps, organisations have realised that they don’t need a brick and mortar office anymore. Employees can work from anywhere. The ‘Office’ is dead… Google and Facebook have announced that their employees don’t have to attend office until 2021. If they can, so will many follow. Real estate developers, agents and landlords beware.

Now if the office is dead, cities will change too. Why should anyone pay high rent for a pigeon-hole apartment just to be close to the office? Why not move to bigger homes in quite suburban, small towns and enjoy better quality of life? Once people realise their job can be done remotely, people will avoid the long hours of daily commute in congested traffic. Reverse migration, here it starts.

Once the whole mode of doing business changes, the faster you adopt to online world, the better your chances of survival in the new normal. A word of advice: when you move to suburbs, get a faster ISP plan first.

The second biggest impact of Corona crisis is that people will move from post materialistic mindset; experience will be more important than acquisition. The glimpses of the new normal are visible in the current response to the COVID-19 pandemic viz depleted incomes, depleted savings, and massive destruction of wealth. How it affects you and how you respond to it depends on your deep understanding and insights into your business.


Seek opportunity in adversity. In a highly resource-constrained and chaotic environment inspire jugaad innovators, i.e. develop market relevant products and services that are inherently affordable and sustainable. Jugaad innovators are modern day alchemists who turn adversity into opportunity.

Do more with less. Chuck your old process, start afresh. Look for creative breakthroughs. You already have insights into your business, now is the time for some lateral thinking on frugal financial diet.

Think and act flexibly. Remember these are extraordinary situation for everyone. There are no textbook solutions and not every Jugaad will work. There is no right or wrong. So if it’s not working, don’t be obstinate, get back to the drawing board. Take another crack at the problem and then again and again until you solve it.

Keep it simple. Everyone is in the same boat as you. Now that’s a good start. Engage local communities and partners. Understand your consumer is also in a crisis. He wants a good deal, are your solutions practical and affordable?

Follow your heart. There is heart and soul in every Jugaad. Incredible and disruptive solutions come not from logic and rational, but from taking a giant leap of faith where profit is not the only motive.

You can’t import Jugaad into your organisation and carry on as if it’s business as usual. Learn the basic principles of Jugaad first, empower your team to innovate. In March-end, right after India went under lockdown to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, the Mahindra Group declared that it will build bag valve mask ventilators. A team of engineers locked themselves in and created a ventilator that could sell for Rs. 7,500 while the sophisticated machines cost anywhere between Rs. 5-10 lakhs. Whether the cheap ventilator will ever hit production lines or not, a new learning has been made.

There has to be a certain element of craziness, uncertainty and space for chance learning. Too much process will kill that creative spark. Jugaad is a culture, an attitude, an outcome of circumstance, but definitely not something planned. The challenge is to tap into it and channel it. Let chaos reign, then rein in chaos.

Harshawardhan Shahani is the CEO of V-Chitra.

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