Innovation, as an approach todevelopment, is progressively becoming the real driver for change in the world,as it intervenes across sectors, providing accessible solutions to ever evolvingconsumer needs. Countries around theworld have already depicted the role of innovative solutions in improving standardsof living, while catalysing national growth rates. For instance, since the1980s, South Korea has vastly improved its economic status by promoting aninward transfer of foreign technology while developing its domestic capacity todigest and improve through innovative ideas like reverse engineering andforeign licensing–followed by significant investments in R&D. This paper provides suggestions to allow a similar innovation-drivenpath for India, one that will allow it to maintain a balance between economicdevelopment and social well-being.
India is increasingly becoming a topglobal innovator for high technology products and services. With all the right ingredients – massive population strength,an history of ….. It has the potential to innovate in a way that can disruptthe status quo and create breakthroughsolutions.However, the country is still underperforming relative to its innovationpotential— with direct implications for long-term industrial competitivenessand economic growth. Despitepockets of innovative activities in both the formal and informal sectors,innovation remains concentrated in a small segment of the economy. With about 25%of its population living below the national poverty line, India is largely a subsistenceeconomy, with significant spatial variance across and within states. Roughly 90 percent of the workforce is employed in the informal sector,which is often characterized by low-productivity and low-skill activities.
ThoughIndia has the benefit of a younger population — with more than half of the country’s population under 25years old— only 17percent of people in their mid-20s and older have a secondary education. Whiletheir youth is an advantage, their inexperience combined with a risk averse,imitation prone mentality is a major disadvantage. Moreover, anothercritical input to encourage innovation, domestic R spending, has neverexceeded 1 percent of India’s GDP. Historically,the trajectory of innovation has come to reflect the priorities of thedeveloped world, with technologies traditionally being developed by well-educatedengineers, in multinational firms, funded by large R&D budgets. The socio economic landscape of India (and the myriad ofproblems associated with it) necessitates the call for a new model of innovation, one in which new applicationsand processes can induce the production of better goods and services, with thesame or fewer inputs—to meet the needs of all sections of Indian society. Toharness its innovation potential, an approach that can prove invaluable forIndia in the present hyper-competitive market setup is that of Frugal Innovation.
Anincreasingly relevant concept, frugal innovation is already inherent in theIndian society through the system of ‘Jugaad’,a word which itself has connotations to improvise, hack, make do, and mend. Itimplies resourcefulness, given the constraints of any given situation, whetherthey are financial or simply of resources available at the time. Thus frugalinnovation can be interpreted a context sensitive solution to a problem, onewhich allows adversity to become inspiration for further innovations.