Discovering « jugaad innovation »


At an innovation cocktail held two weeks ago in Paris by the danone.communities team, the participants were introduced to a new kind of entrepreneurship: “jugaad innovation”. Here is a sneak peek at what was shared that day.


On a regular basis, the danone.communities team holds events called “YY Cocktails”, where they gather together social entrepreneurs and innovators and ask  them to share their experiences. This team is an expert in social innovation: it consists of Miora Ranaivoarinosy and Carole Chaumet, community managers for danone.communities, Marie Leborgne, a member of MakeSense and a former danone.communities trainee and Liza Patris, a trainee with the Danone Ecosystem Fund. Together, they have set up this new edition of the “YY Cocktails”.

“YY” stands for “You and Yunus”: the cocktails take their inspiration from Peace Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, and aim to highlight different ways of promoting his message.

Two weeks ago, the Parisian festival Futur en Seine (an annual event dedicated to the future) welcomed a new edition of the YY Cocktails, with an intriguing topic: « the jugaad innovation ».


What is jugaad innovation?


The term comes from Hindi: , jugaad, meaning

an innovative fix; an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness; resourceful.

The expression “jugaad innovation” was coined by Navi Radjou, a Frenchman of Indian origin who works as an innovation consultant in the Silicon Valley, and his fellow co-authors in a book with the same name (published by Diateino, 2013). It designates the initiatives of entrepreneurs who see opportunities in challenging situations, and are willing to “do more with less”. And in fact, the challenges are many, in a world marked by violent economic, environmental and social crises.

Discover jugaad innovation4

- Photo: ©Liza Patris -

In Western countries, buying power is falling while customers’ expectations regarding sustainability and responsibility are on the up. In the developing world, the question of the over-exploitation of natural resources is becoming ever more crucial, along with social issues. But this does not frighten “jugaad entrepreneurs”, whose mindset enables them to easily innovate in resource-limited environments. The YY Cocktail put the spotlight on these ingenuous “do-ers”, hoping that it will inspire others to take action… Even with limited means, a great idea remains a great idea.


Five jugaad entrepreneurs


So on June 15th, at Le 104 (a Parisian place dedicated to culture and creation), the YY Cocktail gathered its participants together to talk about what might also be called “frugal innovation”.  It started with a Skype conversation with Navi Radjou, who explained how jugaad innovation succeeds in transforming problems into solutions. He quoted the example of an Indian man who managed to transform the shocks he felt on his bicycle every time he hit a pot-hole into energy, thanks to a converter attached to the bike.

1Discover jugaad innovation

– Photo: ©Liza Patris –

Then the audience were introduced to five projects with five entrepreneurs. First, with Romain Chanut from Jerry Do It Together, a project that enables a computer to be built with basic functions… in just half a day. The idea relies on the fact that we most often use our computers for very simple tasks that can be achieved with an economy of means: Jerry Do It Together thus provides broader, cheaper access to technology.

The second speaker was Erwan Kezzar from Simplon, a “solidarity web school” that teaches entrepreneurship and digital development to underprivileged young people – and more specifically girls, who usually have little access to these activities. Simplon set up a way to master digital skills in 6 months (for “non-geeks”) and provide all the necessary background for someone to deliver commercially-useful applications currently in use. This is made possible mostly through 80% learning by doing and sharing, which is typical of a jugaad approach. To Erwan, Simplon thus falls into the category of jugaad innovation because it mobilises the resources in its surroundings (here, expertise in coding) to give new tools to entrepreneurs, who will later innovate and solve problems thanks to these acquired competencies.

Thirdly, Stéphanie Paris spoke of the Make It Up Festival, a hacker-inspired festival that gives a new life to objects and thus fights planned obsolescence, which creates a lot of “unnecessary” waste. It is striking here how a cross-disciplinary, collaborative process makes it possible to find new ways of looking at a product life cycle, and suggest new production models for the industrial world.

- Photo: ©Philothee Gaymard -

- Photo: ©Liza Patris -

Then Gaby Bolivar from Les Petits Débrouillards explained how the association gathers communities around scientific projects, to promote the idea that anyone can do science. They notably encourage the exchange of material and immaterial values: an object in exchange for a class, for instance. This approach inspires the desire to experiment and fosters a mindset oriented towards problem-solving and autonomy.
Finally, Brieuc Saffré from Wiithaa talked about how they give a new life to industrial objects through design and upcycling. They also provide consultancy services to corporate companies, which they advise on how they can add value to their industrial waste by recycling and upcycling it.


Is jugaad innovation a form of activism?


All of the entrepreneurs insisted on the fact that jugaad means calling on the expertise of everyone around you, and feeding that expertise with passion and knowledge. When asked if jugaad could be seen as form of activism, they replied that its main characteristic is that it emerges in environments that are constraint-driven, and sometimes downright hostile. When a project faces an emergency, and then reacts to it, it can be quite militant in the sense that reaching its goal is vital. For Gaby Bolivar, although there is clearly some activism in what Les Petits Débrouillards do, the idea is to propose complementary solutions, rather than being merely “against” something. Brieuc Saffré also explained that being a bit of an activist also means wanting to innovate for as many people as possible, which drives common-sense innovation. In fact, one could say that the jugaad spirit is a strong characteristic of social entrepreneurs, whatever they do.

- Photo: ©Philothee Gaymard -

- Photo: ©Liza Patris -

Then it was time for an “innovation hunt”, when the participants could win copies of Jugaad Innovation if they answered five questions correctly. Among them: how much waste did a French person produce in 2011? Can you make music with a teddy bear? We will let you think about that one… but the answer surely lies in the ingenuity of frugal innovation!

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