India’s Mangalyaan mission to Mars and the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car, are two of the country’s most celebrated achievements in recent times. They have something in common with the inverter which keeps the lights on during power cuts, the desert cooler which eases the searing summer heat, and the hybrid trikes, half-Enfield Bullet motorbike, half-bullock cart, which slow traffic throughout northern India. They share traits with inspiring village inventions which offer cheap stoves, cool water, wind-powered pumps, safer wells, and even sanitary towels to those who can least afford them. And they also share characteristics with some of the worst aspects of life in urban India—unsafe vehicles, dangerous buildings, poor sanitation and shoddy standards of work and manufacturing. They are all examples of good and bad jugaad, the colloquial Hindi word for a frugal innovation, a quick fix, improvised solution with cheap materials readily to hand, and ‘out of the box’ solutions which bypass received wisdom, rules and regulations.
The concept of jugaad divides many in India. Should the country embrace jugaad as the elixir of innovation or shun it as the celebration of the substandard? This book explores the special place jugaad has in Indian thinking and India.