From Jugaad To Reverse Innovation

Frederic Giron
Vice President, Research Director
May 22, 2012

Next month, I will be relocating to Singapore after two years in India. These two years have been an amazing learning experience for me, both from a personal and professional point of view. A very intense experience too! Of the few Hindi words I learned during my stint in India, there is one that I am particularly fond of: “jugaad,” which can be translated as “making things work.” This is one way to summarize what India is all about — and why India works as an economy, in spite of the gods and despite all of the challenges that India currently faces as a society.

This concept has taken on a lot more importance on the global scene in recent years from an innovation management point of view. A former Forrester colleague has recently coauthored a book about the concept and how it could “reignite American ingenuity.” The economic and ecological crises that we have been through over the past few years call for new ways of approaching economic development and growth. And the “jugaad” concept could bring interesting solutions to our modern societies.

I am also linking this concept to reverse innovation and the current research work I am doing on the move to an asset-based IT services industry. IT services firms globally are increasingly investing in software assets to remain relevant to their clients. These innovations are taking place in the centers of excellence that IT services firms have created in India and emerging markets in the past three to five years. Case in point: earlier this year, iGate and Rio Tinto announced the creation of a mining innovation center in Pune. While jugaad and reverse innovation are different concepts altogether, I believe the frugal innovation theme links them. I am coming across more and more examples of such frugal software innovations in India and emerging markets that sooner or later will be coming to the West. Two recent examples include:

  • Capgemini’s business continuity in uncertain networks (BCUN) solution. This solution enables companies to connect a distributed system (like point of sales or the sales force’s mobile devices) to a centralized database even though the network infrastructure is unreliable, a common challenge in India. The solution also provides a cost-effective way to automate highly distributed business processes leveraging remote knowledge workers by replacing heavy web/app servers with lighter client apps. Capgemini believes this value proposition will also interest organizations in more mature markets.
  • TCS HOB (Hosted OSS/BSS). The origin of this hosted OSS/BSS solution lies in Nepal and Malaysia. Two telecom service providers (SPs) there faced challenges that traditional approaches could not solve in a cost-effective manner. In order to address their needs, TCS developed a simple, “fit for purpose,” yet comprehensive application suite based on its own software intellectual property (IP). Interestingly, while the early target markets for this HOB solution accelerator were greenfield and medium-size telecom SPs in emerging markets, it also received interest from larger firms in Europe looking to experiment with new business models with minimal investments.

These are just two examples of how innovations that are solving business problems in the East will increasingly find their way in the West to deliver more value to organizations at less cost. Reverse innovation is one of the topics I will continue to be closely monitoring when I am in Singapore. And I believe the next few years will be rich in innovation coming from India and Asia as a whole!

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