From QuickFix to Sexy: the story of “Jugaad”

I flinched when I read the first International business magazine article mentioning the “great Indian tradition of jugaad“. WTF!, I thought to myself, must be a slow news week.

Look, I wasn’t born yesterday, and I know that when a Delhi-wallah says “kuch jugaad hai” (literally, “I have a  fix for that”) he actually means that he has a really quick, and really dirty way of fixing the problem. It could be the use of boiled potatoes as glue to fix torn kites. It could even be the use of a washing machine to make milk-shakes (Extra large, for the whole village). It may have been the use of photocopied “Samantha Fox concert” tickets! It could be anything that requires the cutting of corners, and a blatant pursuit of short term fixes. A Jugaad, in other words, is a junkie’s quick-fix. A matter, in the early 1980s, of great national shame…as in “We have a “chalta hai” and “jugaad” mentality, us Indians, chee chee!!”. Many newspaper editorials would bemoan this collective lack of social consciousness and quality focus.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the venerable newspaper, The Economist, decides to honor the word with an article on “innovation in emerging markets”. This is probably the last step in the gentrification of a low-class word. Jugaad will now be completely acceptable in board-rooms as a legitimate business strategy. Awards will be given out for grass-roots innovation. Entire movies (case in point- 3 Idiots) will laud the hero who creates something out of nothing through the power of Jugaad.

You can see where this is going. The same editors who bemoaned the collective lack of social consciousness, will now claim this as an ancient and venerable Indian tradition. “Arrey! These ancients were great, you see, and they put the funda of  jugaad into the way of life for us Indians. Such foresight”.

Suddenly, I feel the jugaadu in me rising. I’m an innovator, and being a frugal innovator gives me the right to use this newly minted uber-sexy word. I, Gaurav Rastogi, specialize in jugaad. You read it here first.

Just don’t tell my colleagues yet! Wait for the word to become sexier. Maybe an article in the Wall Street Journal!

Quote from The Economist:

Indians often see frugal innovation as their distinctive contribution to management thinking. They point to the national tradition of jugaad—meaning, roughly, making do with what you have and never giving up—and cite many examples of ordinary Indians solving seemingly insoluble problems.

Follow up post is here.

About Gaurav Rastogi
Gaurav Rastogi is a writer and a business-exec living in the San Francisco bay area. His other blog is a personal philosophy blog at

9 Responses to From QuickFix to Sexy: the story of “Jugaad”

  1. Pingback: Business Guru predicts future Indian Buzzwords « Two MBAs, One Blog

  2. Pingback: Business Guru predicts future Indian Buzzwords « Two MBAs, One Blog

  3. psriblog says:

    You are wise to wait until posterity mulls over the word a bit, in its rather finite wisdom, and pronounces with finality on its sexiness or sleaziness.

    The dark mutterings in India (while you were busily getting stuck in volcanic ash) are that Lalit Modi used to be the Jahanpanah of Jugaad. Until he got caught.


  4. All will be forgiven for LM when he also makes it to Time’s 100 most influential people list in 2011, and the Indian government confers a PadmaShri in the near future. It seems that history and talent are not a pre-requisite for either! 😉

    As for “hold that thought”, I agree. Who knows if the word Jugaad will be appropriated by unsavory underworld types, and above-board characters like us will be forced to withdraw back into the shells we came out from. No Sir, not me! I’ve *never* participated in jugaad. My car was never a water pump, and my milk-smoothies were always shaken in a blender.

  5. Vidya says:

    What a terrific piece! A friend once mentioned that given a design, Indians are great at making a prototype well under cost and time budgets. But tell them to make 20,000 more..that’s when it all falls apart!
    Also, I do think that the competitive advantage jugaadu Indians have tends to dissipate in law-abiding, rule and process-driven societies like the US. Which is why we are so thrilled when a Shahrukh concert in scheduled at Cow Palace in San Francisco..opportunity for jugaad (parking, cheap tickets, sneaking in extra people, crowding the 150 dollar seats after buying the nosebleed tickets etc.)!

  6. Pingback: Jugaad Redux « Two MBAs, One Blog

  7. Sunil Malhotra says:

    Thanks for your comment on my blog post, Gaurav.

    Never underestimate the power of the Delhi-wallah’s jugaad mentality or the West’s propensity for creating catchword-based professions. Since MBAs became jurassic by the downfall of the Financial wizkids, the next is ‘jugaad ka zamaana’ – welcome to the age of the ‘fixer’ professionals. No points for guessing the highest geo-density of domain experts on this one!

  8. mclodha says:

    Hi !

    Meetesh here, have just passed out with PGDM from DCSMAT, Trivandrum.

    And being a blogger myself, a post on juggad was pending for a long time.

    Gaurav we are on the same page.Juggad is a cool thing, actually , I enjoyed juggad

    because I was one who needed those juggads.Cool ,ha! WSJ will feature a piece on

    juggad very soon. “Jahan Indians , Waha Juggad too hoga hi” Juggad ki Jai

  9. Manish says:

    very nicely done….i tried to capture something similar on

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