Jugaad is the latest/trend in management and business reports of India’s
awakening. The term refers to the widespread practice in rural India of juryrigging
and customizing vehicles using only available resources and know-how.
While the practice is often accompanied by indigence and corruption in
traditional interpretations, the notion of jugaad has excited many commentators
on India’s emergence into the global economy in its promise of an inimitable
Indian work ethic that defies traditional associations of otherworldliness and
indolence – widely reported as inherent in India’s society and culture. Jugaad has
been identified across India’s economy in the inventiveness of call-centre workers,
the creativity of global transnational elites, and in the innovativeness of Indian
product designs. The term has seen an unprecedented growth in popularity and is
now proffered as a tool for development and a robust solution to global recession.
Jugaad is now part of a wider method for working within resource constraints as
‘Indovation’. In this context, the trope is presented as an asset that India can
nurture and export. This article argues that far from being an example of
‘disruptive innovation’, jugaad in practice is in fact part and parcel of India’s
systemic risk and should not be separated from this framing. Viewed from this
optic, jugaad impacts on society in negative and undesirable ways. Jugaad is a
product of widespread poverty and underpins path dependencies stemming from
dilapidated infrastructure, unsafe transport practices, and resource constraints.
These factors make it wholly unsuitable both as a development tool and as a
business asset. The article questions the intentions behind jugaad’s wider usage
and adoption and explores the underlying chauvinism at work in the term’s links
to India’s future hegemonic potential.