Jugaad, a means to an end?

Title image is of cheap plastic bracelets wrapped around a tube lamp to act as diffuser, India. Photo by Shaun Fynn
Second image, home made vehicle based on a power generator, India. Image source unknown
Third image, pressure cooker adapted into coffee machine, India. Image source unknown

It is difficult to decide the correct connotation of the word jugaad. While some view it as a quality of a genius, some reject it on grounds of improper quick-fix. Some people also believe that DIY had its origin in jugaad. But in my opinion, jugaad roots from lack of a better option or resources, or from the mindset of having just about what serves the purpose. If any solution to a problem leads to saving money, time or resources, it would be called jugaad. It uses objects in ways they were not meant to be used but come together to serve the purpose. 

Thus jugaad needs out-of-the-box thinking. However in most cases, a jugaad falls short of a permanent solution to the problem. These solutions are worth appreciation for being innovative, but are not refined, scalable or sustainable for the same problem in a different environment or situation. 

Jugaad is a word that aptly describes a smart quick-fix. It is understandably fascinating for those who are used to living in societies with refined, affordable and convenient solutions to most problems. However in economies like India, jugaad is almost a way of living for many people. It is definitely not glorious, although the genius does take pride in the creation! 

These solutions are worth appreciation for being innovative, but are not refined, scalable or sustainable for the same problem in a different environment or situation. 

It might be true that jugaad is an asset, for its an attitude that can pull one out of crisis but one should understand that jugaad’ is only the necessity for innovation. If one was given the option of a better solution at the same price or a hassle free solution, Jugaad will take a back seat. This vehicle below is run on a power generator, a common commodity in places with regular power cuts. Almost every part of this vehicle is salvaged scrap.

Jugaad could be illegal, it could be dangerous and therefore leads me to believe that it sprouts more from a need and not so much from the excitement of doing things yourself. If the truck owner had the option to buy a van, he wouldn’t have come up with this solution, or if there was a cop who handed him a ticket for driving an unlicensed vehicle, he will definitely come up with another jugaad, and probably either make it look like a licensed vehicle or hire a person to look out for a cop which will probably cost him lesser money than the make over!

After life

Reusable and durable products hold better chances of success in markets such as India. If the products life as a whole is not great, but lends itself to easy repairs it could do alright with buyers. The repair processes invariably involves jugaad at many levels. 

Although singlehood in India is on the rise, many Indian families make important purchases depending on when the young ones in the family get married. Therefore, products for single user find it hard to compete with products that a family could use. This leads to situations where make-do arrangements predominate until permanent or more appropriate products are bought.

Multi-function

Multi functionality is a quality in a product that hasn’t always been intentional but has been the reason for its success a few times. Take the washing machine for instance. A top loading washing machine in principle was only turning the clothes inside the drum, when it must have occurred to someone in Punjab that a blender has the same movement. For a person who sells butter milk for a living, this was a great discovery, because now he could make larger quantities in one go. This jugaad led to a new introduction of washing machines, which were specially used for blending butter milk. Similarly, a coffee machine would cost much more than this simple pressure cooker.

One point worth noting in most of these examples of  jugaad is that the innovator well understands some basic principles about how things work and this cannot always be attributed to education or literacy. Many of these people would have never gone to school, they might be illiterate, but a good eye for observing things around us has almost unknowingly led to a tactful attitude towards life, because for some Indians, jugaad is a way of life.