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In India, Less is More

June 2012

By Komal Sharma, Delhi

It is now a topic of debate if the cheapest car in the world, the Tata Nano has really stormed the Indian market as was speculated, or if the Indian consumer–even the relatively lower-income group—has a more discerning eye than for which he is given credit.  Regardless, what’s irrefutable is that the Nano, with frugality in its engineering and hence cost, became the harbinger of a new cycle of innovation that stems from scarcity, but inspires ingenious solutions nonetheless.

Jugaad, a colloquial Hindi term, has become the new buzzword. Published a few months ago, the book Jugaad Innovation talks about how emerging economies are coming up with low-cost, workable products that are being sought on a global level.

The Indian subcontinent, home of jugaad, has a frugal mindset in both its culture and lifestyle, manifesting itself in various ways. Take for instance Mitticool, a refrigerator designed for the rural population of India. Mansukh Prajapati, a school dropout who made terracotta roof tiles, designed Mitticool. It does not use electricity, is simply made of clay and has a small overhead tank to bring down the temperature inside, extending the life of food items stored.

Whereas Mitticool may appear to be a one-off example of a single man’s creativity, Indian corporations are following the same ethic. Bharti Airtel, India’s biggest telecom company, works on the principle that when a consumer can’t afford to own the assets required, they can instead be rented or shared.

Low-cost innovation is not limited to technology; however, it can also be spotted in the Indian sense of style. Generally, the sari is a singular piece of material, sometimes as long as nine meters, that’s draped in several ways. Delhi-based fashion boutique Rani pink’k has its own ‘reuse/re-fashion’ interpretation of the sari. Three contrasting pieces of materials are patch-worked together to create one sari, giving the pleats in the front a fascinating focus and the sari a more contemporary look. It’s only goes to say that jugaad is in the very fabric of the Indian subcontinent.


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