Look Towards the East for Innovation to Rise By Ela Erozan Gürsel

poliThe modern time innovations have been dominated by the US and Europe where giant companies allocate large sums of investments for research and development to create new technology. Plus, these companies spend huge marketing budgets to promote this new technology and raise awareness on its unique advantages among businesses and individual customers. Today, companies don’t have such large funds that they can generously allocate for R&D or marketing. They have to be innovative within a budget. Instead of developing sophisticated features for new products or creating brand new technologies, they need to listen to their customers carefully to evaluate both praises and complaints, watch the customers’ spending behaviors and try to see what the customers are really looking for…

Although some companies see the recession as time to stop innovating, other companies look for ways to continue innovating within financial limits by creating just enough room for smart inventions that are requested by the customers.

The West is looking towards the East for feasible answers on how to innovate in financial crisis. The most innovative nation that transcends the Eastern world with its technical expertise is India. However, the innovations they implement are not all technical but they are rather practical within contraints. Indians call their approach to innovation ‘Jugaad.’

What does Jugaad mean? I heard of Jugaad when I read an article on Businessweek called India’s Next Global Export: Innovation after most business scholars turn their head to India to study Jugaad as a successful business model. In fact, it is a Hindi word with many meanings. In its most common use, it is a simple motor vehicle used in small villages in India to go from one place to another. As a colloquial saying, jugaad means innovative and easy solution to improve things and processes. Jugaad mainly provides practical approach on how to manage your business when you have limited resources. Transformed into a broader business term, jugaad is a rapid and low cost way of innovation with special focus to customers’ immediate needs. Lately, India’s innovation is globally described as jugaad, fast and cheap inventions simply focusing on meeting what customers’ needs and nothing more. In fact, the goal of jugaad is to make life easier for customers. With jugaad, you don’t need to create a new market for your new products, you simply need to improve the products and services that already exist based on the customers’ preferences. Sometimes, even simplifying what already exists in the market…

Indian companies seem to become more innovative when there are limitations. They know how to make something out of scarce resources they have despite the foreign influence, evolving culture and ever-changing politics. Tata Nano is a great example of how cars could be made for minimum cost and could meet customers’ simple need of transportation. There is no emphasis on any additional features like better looks, cool applications or more horsepower. The company just makes many Indians dream of driving a car and travelling greater distances independently a reality.

Implementing jugaad as a way of innovating, company managements need to note that since  the innovation on products and services is rapidly delivered with a low cost,  some safety measures can be overlooked. So, companies who implement jugaad need to double check necessary measures and keep ethics in mind.

Maybe, one day we can live in a world where companies and governments operate based on jugaad prioritizing the needs of customers and citizens. Hope is always in the air for simple innovations!

elaerozangurselEla Erozan Gürsel writes a weekly column named “Değişim Yelpazesi ” on global business trends for Dünya Gazetesi on behalf of Datassist for almost two years. Her feature topics include: green energy; climate change; impacts of financial crisis on companies, sectors and regions; innovative technologies in sciences, human resources and management; social networks transforming business and politics; changing dynamics of marketing and branding.

She also writes articles for international magazines published in Singapore.

Prior to her writing career, she worked at Datassist as a Project Manager in a project that combines human resources and mobile communications with the aim to connect blue-collar workers and employers through mobile phones. Before engaging in this exciting project, she was in pharmaceutical sales working for a multinational company. She graduated from American University, Washington, DC, majoring in International Studies with a concentration on International Business and Europe. She worked in Washington D.C. as an Account Manager at a boutique telemarketing firm that specializes in fund raising and publication renewals. She speaks Turkish, English, French, and Spanish. She currently resides in Singapore with her husband.


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