Research for Global Development

Jugaad (Austerity-Based) Research


Jugaad photoUntil very recently, jugaad, a Hindi word, was used as a pejorative to characterize the low quality production and substandard work ethic of small-business owners in India. Today, it is being reclaimed and redefined as jugaad-based innovation, improvised solutions using ingenuity born of necessity due to a lack of resources.

A book released last year, Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth,  describes innovations in emerging markets like India where innovators have come up with simple but effective solutions that internalize and reflect a frugal environment. And so, jugaad is presented as both an inherent characteristic (frugality in innovation), as well as an antidote to challenges facing those living in developing countries (such as lack of resources, lack of proper infrastructure, or lack of access to financial services or healthcare).   The authors suggest that innovators operating in diverse, chaotic, inequitable and inter-connected environments are not only able to find innovative solutions to their problems, but that these solutions may in fact be cheaper, faster, more inclusive and more adaptable.

For example, YES Bank has developed a money service that makes it easier, safer and cheaper for migrant workers to send money back to their family members living in remote villages.  Informal remittance services, or tatkals,  were often unorganized and untrustworthy- but without bank accounts, the migrants had no choice.  YES Bank came up with a system that is faster, and up to five times cheaper, than other options.  With the potential to serve 600 million unbanked Indians, this model is not just inclusive with its customer base, but also partners with 200,000 mom-and-pop retail stores and small payment platform companies in urban and rural areas.

Jugaad innovations are distinct from the way we are used to understanding innovations in the developed world. Their creators build forward, assuming a scarcity of resources, such as electricity, that are taken for granted in resource-rich environments. Jugaad innovators often emerge without large research and development budgets, and they aren’t always qualified designers or researchers. In fact, the process of jugaad innovation often includes marginal groups (either as innovators or potential customers), who, out of necessity, end up creating products and services that are cheap and sustainable. If the nature of innovations, like YES Bank, is markedly distinct, then our research strategies to assess and evaluate them also need to be reoriented. Is there a need, then, for jugaad-inspired research?

Jugaad innovations rely on in-depth knowledge of highly segmented populations.  The contextual information (contained within communities) is often tacit and needs careful teasing out. This insight is difficult, if not impossible, to glean from the traditional methods of evaluation and data collection. Measures of success in this space are also non-traditional. A jugaad world should be evaluated and assessed with research tools that acknowledge resource constraints.

  1. Customize Indicators: Indicators or scoring criteria need to move beyond traditional measures of success and examine adherence to jugaad principles. Is the innovation meeting the specific needs of its environment? Is it cost effective, fast and inclusive? Does it optimize limited resources and make the best of contextual knowledge? Does it bring more value to more people at a lower cost?
  2. Segment and zoom in on marginal groups: Nationally representative surveys may not tell us the whole story in highly inequitable places such as India. In India, the middle-upper class lives on another planet from their fellow citizens at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) and, therefore, the innovations for each are worlds apart. If we are trying to understand the needs of BOP unbanked women or urban migrant workers, and evaluate innovations targeted to them, expensive national surveys may not tell the full story.  In-depth population segmentations will be more valuable.
  3. Present a mixed bag of solutions: A combination of solutions that incorporate quantitative, qualitative and digital research tools might present a better picture than conducting one randomized control trial. For instance, while quantitative tracker surveys might ascertain the spread of mobile money access, a semiotic study into culturally influenced financial behavior might reveal unmet needs of a potential customer base. Intercepting and interviewing patients at health clinics might reveal more about their health-related behavior than a traditional focus group discussion.

With the idea of Jugaad in mind, can we make some creative changes to the way we approach research and evaluation challenges, that deliver high quality results even in areas or for programs where big budget research isn’t feasible?

InterMedia

Jugaad (Austerity-Based) Research


Jugaad photoUntil very recently, jugaad, a Hindi word, was used as a pejorative to characterize the low quality production and substandard work ethic of small-business owners in India. Today, it is being reclaimed and redefined as jugaad-based innovation, improvised solutions using ingenuity born of necessity due to a lack of resources.

A book released last year, Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth,  describes innovations in emerging markets like India where innovators have come up with simple but effective solutions that internalize and reflect a frugal environment. And so, jugaad is presented as both an inherent characteristic (frugality in innovation), as well as an antidote to challenges facing those living in developing countries (such as lack of resources, lack of proper infrastructure, or lack of access to financial services or healthcare).   The authors suggest that innovators operating in diverse, chaotic, inequitable and inter-connected environments are not only able to find innovative solutions to their problems, but that these solutions may in fact be cheaper, faster, more inclusive and more adaptable.

For example, YES Bank has developed a money service that makes it easier, safer and cheaper for migrant workers to send money back to their family members living in remote villages.  Informal remittance services, or tatkals,  were often unorganized and untrustworthy- but without bank accounts, the migrants had no choice.  YES Bank came up with a system that is faster, and up to five times cheaper, than other options.  With the potential to serve 600 million unbanked Indians, this model is not just inclusive with its customer base, but also partners with 200,000 mom-and-pop retail stores and small payment platform companies in urban and rural areas.

Jugaad innovations are distinct from the way we are used to understanding innovations in the developed world. Their creators build forward, assuming a scarcity of resources, such as electricity, that are taken for granted in resource-rich environments. Jugaad innovators often emerge without large research and development budgets, and they aren’t always qualified designers or researchers. In fact, the process of jugaad innovation often includes marginal groups (either as innovators or potential customers), who, out of necessity, end up creating products and services that are cheap and sustainable. If the nature of innovations, like YES Bank, is markedly distinct, then our research strategies to assess and evaluate them also need to be reoriented. Is there a need, then, for jugaad-inspired research?

Jugaad innovations rely on in-depth knowledge of highly segmented populations.  The contextual information (contained within communities) is often tacit and needs careful teasing out. This insight is difficult, if not impossible, to glean from the traditional methods of evaluation and data collection. Measures of success in this space are also non-traditional. A jugaad world should be evaluated and assessed with research tools that acknowledge resource constraints.

  1. Customize Indicators: Indicators or scoring criteria need to move beyond traditional measures of success and examine adherence to jugaad principles. Is the innovation meeting the specific needs of its environment? Is it cost effective, fast and inclusive? Does it optimize limited resources and make the best of contextual knowledge? Does it bring more value to more people at a lower cost?
  2. Segment and zoom in on marginal groups: Nationally representative surveys may not tell us the whole story in highly inequitable places such as India. In India, the middle-upper class lives on another planet from their fellow citizens at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) and, therefore, the innovations for each are worlds apart. If we are trying to understand the needs of BOP unbanked women or urban migrant workers, and evaluate innovations targeted to them, expensive national surveys may not tell the full story.  In-depth population segmentations will be more valuable.
  3. Present a mixed bag of solutions: A combination of solutions that incorporate quantitative, qualitative and digital research tools might present a better picture than conducting one randomized control trial. For instance, while quantitative tracker surveys might ascertain the spread of mobile money access, a semiotic study into culturally influenced financial behavior might reveal unmet needs of a potential customer base. Intercepting and interviewing patients at health clinics might reveal more about their health-related behavior than a traditional focus group discussion.

With the idea of Jugaad in mind, can we make some creative changes to the way we approach research and evaluation challenges, that deliver high quality results even in areas or for programs where big budget research isn’t feasible?

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