Jugaad Vs Anti-Jugaad!!!

In the last 2 weeks, 2 TV ads for different products by 2 different agencies but surprisingly around the same theme of Jugaad caught my attention.  One is for Sulekha.com and the other for Exide Life Insurance. Jugaad is India’s contribution to management theory or so it appears. That the word ‘Jugaad’ has a Wikipedia page attributed to it means, it “has” arrived. And I think it had arrived a decade ago. When we started seeing this term being bandied about in management lecture circuits and HBR articles in the context of a Rising India. Yes the same time when BRICS broke into investment strategy discussions around the globe. For the uninitiated, Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi/Punjabi word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, used for solutions that bend rules. (Courtesy: Wikipedia). One of the very popular examples of Jugaad which has been trumpeted about is the use of old run down washing machines as giant Lassi makers in dhabas of Punjab😤

So what was new in Jugaad?? The concept of Jugaad I believe emanated from the Indian psyche of use first, then re-use, then repair and use and refuse (to throw i.e.). So when you have a problem in hand, as long as you can just do something and fix it and Chalaofy, its fine. These days for our kids, when their slipper snaps, Snapdeal delivers a new pair the next day. In our time, when a slipper gave way, a safety-pin first came to the rescue to pull along for few days. When that also failed, the cobbler under the nearby tree stretched the life of the slipper for few more days. So the immediate instinct was to do some Jugaad to get it going before we buy a new pair.

It was but natural that the word entered the workplace soon. At factories, warehouses, offices – if there was a problem the first attempt is to do some Jugaad and fix it. And in interviews – questions like “Are you a go getter?” gave way to “Are you a Jugaadu??”😜😜 A supposedly smart cookie who can think quickly and provide a cheap and quick fix for problems at work. So the underlying association for Jugaad was that the solution must be quick to implement, cheap and can be a short term compromise. Nobody expected a Jugaad to be a “perfect” solution.

Awesome-Shower-Jugaad

Now this runs antithesis to probably a Japanese way of thinking. In Japan, solutions are found after a lot of thinking (so not a quick fix), they need to be perfect (turn out to be expensive) and for the long-term.

So I guess the Jugaad instinct is all to do with the economic status of the country and its people. In countries like ours which is still aspiring to be a developed country, our priority is to have a fix. Not be a perfect fix. Need not be for long-term. But should be cheap and quick. While this approach has paved the way for eulogizing the concept of Jugaad as a means of “frugal innovation” in countries like India, it also has its shortcomings. As can be seen in our day today lives. For example in the way our municipality fixes potholes in roads. Just fill up quickly with metal and tar and level it only to do the same exercise again in a few months. A Jugaad solution can prove to be a long-term pain and an expensive proposition. In this context, I am uncomfortable with raising Jugaad to a global management technique and all that jazz.

Ergo, interestingly I notice that the same concept which till recently had a positive overtone is taking a negative innuendo. The liberalization and the Software boom have changed things and thinking. These days we deploy less Jugaad in our lives. And we it seems now need long-term, Quality solutions even if expensive. Now coming back to those 2 TV commercials. As can be seen in these 2 ads Jugaad has given way to Anti-Jugaad and the till now venerable Jugaadu is being loathed upon. In my last post “Writings on the walls” (Read here) I wrote about the aspirational India taking wings in the heartlands. I see this emergence of Anti-Jugaad as another instance of the emergence of Aspirational India where the expectations of people have morphed from being just satisfied to yearning for more.

So, are the days numbered for Jugaad in India? May be not. But the question is – As the country which popularised Jugaad is there a “Good Jugaad” which we can still retain and a “Bad Jugaad” which we will have to do away with?

Postscript: As I am typing this racing against the iPad’s battery life, is there a Jugaad for the iPad’s battery life??? Please call me😜😜

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IIM – Has the time come ?

Pardon me if I led you to believe that this piece is on the B school brand. I will leave that to the erudite.  The “Indian Instincts of Management” is what I am trying to figure out here.  For years, one has been fed with theories and stories about the American Way and the Japanese style of management.  The success of American brands in the post capitalist era and the Post war economic miracle in Japan made the world sit up and notice and assiduously look at the reasons for their success.  Thereby emerged the distinct management styles being adopted by American and Japanese companies.   At a time when we are the 3rd largest economy and poised to overtake Japan in terms of GDP by 2032, do we have a distinct Desi Management style which can be touted as our success mantra?

To answer this question, I would like to quickly re-cap the salient aspects of the American and Japanese styles of management.

American:

  • Highly capitalistic
  • Innovation driven
  • Time is essence – Quick decision-making
  • It’s all about marketing and packaging baby!
  • Contract culture – Hire, Fire, Hire and again fire
  • High risk appetite
  • Flexible
  • Outsource and Outsource ( and coin new words – Shanghaied, Bangalored…! )
  • Long term one is sold or dead, let’s discuss about this quarter!
  • Quick to embrace anything new

Japanese:

  • Low Risk Appetite, Risk mitigation key in any decision-making
  • Go for the long haul, Short term profit can wait
  • Lifelong employment
  • Slow but methodical decision-making
  • Product spec, Quality and price is everything, emotional connect? – wrong number
  • Flexibility is a disease
  • Continuous Improvement
  • My Japan, My Japanese – is the best
  • Logical to the core

Post liberalization India is now home to many multinational subsidiaries. But for the sake of this discussion, we are looking at the home-grown successful Indian companies and how they manage their business to see if a pattern of a distinct management style emerges.

So here we go:

Desi (Indian):

  • Business is a family. Employees are like family members. Firing doesn’t come easily.
  • In business, relationships matter.  Building trust becomes critical to build relationships.
  • Decision making may not be logical but most practical.  Again decision-making may not be methodical but largely instinctive
  • We are most flexible. Being flexible in our approach prevents us from getting overwhelmed by any serious business situation or challenge.
  • We Plan. We Execute. But execution may not be as per the plan.  So cost over-runs, delays in completion, Quality compromises, mid-course changes are all part and parcel of our execution.
  • Tom Peters in his seminal management work “In Search of Excellence” talked of “Stick to the knitting” as one of the 8 themes which is – staying with the business you know. Our own management guru the late C.K.Prahalad goaded organizations to develop their “Core competency”. However if you see the cream of Indian corporations from Tata, Birla, Godrej, Reliance, TVS and now to the new kids in the block like Adani, Sahara, .. their core competency is “Not sticking to the knitting” and they have all been mighty successful!  This I feel is an important aspect of Indian Management which shows that we have very high risk profiles, quick learners, flexible and very pragmatic in decision-making.
  • Crisis management comes natural to us.  Added to it is the skill of working in adversities, navigating our way through complex situations,.. I’ve to mention here about the new entrant in the Oxford dictionary namely “Jugaad” – which loosely means “the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources”.( Courtesy : HBR Blog network )
  • What others see as complex issues – we handle it with our left hand. Things like taxation provisions, governmental procedures,.. which spins the head of other nationalities are like kindergarten stuff for us!
  • Indian companies’ attitude towards Ethics reflects their flexible outlook and pragmatism which I’ve outlined above. For most Indian companies, following ethical practices is borne out of convenience rather than conviction.  Follow ethics if you have to or when you will get caught!
  • Though I’m not too sure of this but I would like to mention this here about Innovation and Indian companies.  My two cents on this is that Indian companies at the outset are skeptical about innovation.
  • Marketing is not our forte, but we are not bad either.  We are yet to throw globally recognizable brands except a few like may be “IIT”, “Yoga”, “God’s Own country”, ..But we are getting there.

Having said all this, has the “IIM” arrived?  I guess not yet. But it’s not too far either.  For Desi style of Management to get into the case studies of Harvard or IIM, it’s vital for the Indian corporations to emerge visibly successful in the global arena. That’s why it’s imperative for the NANO to be a “big” hit or Arcelor Mittal to stay solid or for that matter Aditya Birla to “shine” worldwide.

Incidentally I just read today that the “5th P of Marketing” – Philip Kotler on a visit to India yesterday says, “The World awaits Indian dream” !!

I can only say “Amen”.