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By Leadership - Posted on 13 February 2011

JugaadRecently I heard one of my US friends mention this word 'Jugaad' in a positive note about India during a lunch conversation. I was surprised and amazed that the word has crossed boundaries and is already part of atleast one American's vocabulary.

It is said that scarcity mentality is not all that bad. It triggers inventions and innovation. I also read somewhere that deprivation is a great teacher. It forces people to learn and thrive by experimentation.

Jugaad is a word coined in India. I think it originates from the rural parts of Punjab. See the vehicle in the picture (inset). Jugaad is the name of the makeshift vehicle you see in that picture. Rural India did not have access to modern transportation facilities. That was not so long ago. So they created a vehicle on their own - something that can handle the rough terrain and yet carry loads of people and/or cargo around. It is made of a crudely constructed wooden cart with a farm use diesel water pump mounted on it as it engine. Give it a wheel and breaks from old automobile parts and the Jugaad is ready for action.

In India the word 'Jugaad' or 'J Factor' eventually came to be used in business context as being creative and innovative on the face of tough hurdles and constraints. The word usually represents an attitude or mentality. The IT industry in India has many a Jugaad in its roots. I have personally done Jugaad (in the absence of the right tools and technologies) to bring up language compilers on early Indian made computers. Jugaad was definitely required to keep computers functional and performing to customer requirements all around India.

As India transforms as a developing nation, many of the Indian iPod generation are getting used to abundance. However, the positive Jugaad mentality is not completely fading away. It is still alive and well at the bottom of the pyramid. Once I got stuck in a rural locality with a broken bush in one of my car wheels. The rural car mechanic did not have access to a spare. He made one in no time. I was good to go to the nearest city where the spare was available. We need Jugaad all around to be alive and driving us even after we become a superpower. It is definitely a strategic differentiator.

On a lighter note, I have told my kids to imagine the family driving up in a Jugaad to a five star hotel and offering the vehicle for valet parking. Great subject for a cartoon. Want to draw it when I have time!

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