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The West takes up the frugal innovation gauntlet

Companies in the West are increasingly adopting the frugal and flexible approach to innovation found in emerging economies as they concentrate on Western markets.

Jaideep Prabhu, Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise, says he is quietly surprised by this response in the wake of a book he co-authored, Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth. The publication urged the West to look to countries like India, Brazil and China for a new and flexible approach to innovation.

‘Jugaad’ is a Hindi word meaning a flexible solution from ingenuity and cleverness.

In an interview for Cambridge Judge Business School’s website, Professor Prabhu says a striking amount of interest in frugal innovation has been shown by the West, by large and small entrepreneurs alike, as they innovate for Western markets.

“In the West the speed at which this has caught on is not only because of negatives drivers. Yes, necessity is the mother of invention and hardship does drive you to think about how you might reduce costs and make the best use of resources.

“But I think that in the West you also see a set of positive drivers of this phenomenon. The empowerment of people in small groups with small amounts of capital but lots of passion to be able to do all aspects of the innovation process with limited resources from developing the idea. Getting the idea and developing the idea to commercialising it.”

Jaideep Praphu is Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise and Director of the Centre for India & Global Business (CIGB) at Cambridge Judge Business School.