By Apoorvah Sankaran

The session opened with Moderator Sumit Chakraberty bringing up the new ‘’Make in India” campaign, launched by new Prime Minister Narendra Modi which seeks to create India’s manufacturing prowess in 25 new sectors. The once towering steady elephant was replaced by the symbol of the lion, the official new logo that seeks to exude power and vitality.

But what were the panelist’s impressions? Across the board, they agreed the shift in PR strategy is a great move.

Benedict Paramanand believes this is Modi’s way of going back to animals that truly represent India; to tell the world that India is a roaring lion now; A beast that symbolizes compassion and pride. While John Elliot believes it would be fantastic if India can transform itself from elephant to tiger, Arun Maira wonders if “we’re trying to say India is going to be powerful but we are also want peace in the world.”

But when it came to Jugaad or the specific Indian-brand of innovation, there was quite a bit of debate over definitions. Should we really call innovation jugaad at all?

Panelists debate jugaad

Panelists debate jugaad

In John Elliot’s book Implosion: India’s Tryst with Reality’, jugaad is mentioned quite often as making the most of frugal resources. While the word has become quite a fad, however, it also exudes a lack of systems, processes, and institutions that can sustain and support innovation, thereby cheapening India’s image in this light.

Elliot didn’t take lightly to this interpretation: “I would draw a sharp distinction there. I wrote a book called Jugaad last year simply because people wanted a thesis. It’s wrong to blur jugaad and frugal engineering. Jugaad is negative fixing of things. The Ambassador car is the perfect example of jugaad. CK Birla didn’t re-design it. On the other hand, take Mahindra’s jeep. He reformed how the shop floor worked and produced a series of new models. THAT is drilling jugaad into frugal engineering.”

Benedict Paramanand still found jugaad to be an inherently negative word. “I wouldn’t connect it to frugal engineering. I think jugaadgets things to last for three to six months or just about 2 years.”

As the session progressed, the discussion meandered around understanding the Indian mindset when it comes to innovation. A dated presumption is that it involves a lot of R&D, a lot of scientists, and a lot of papers. This belief was also supported by a wide held view that you had to be a certain size to be successful or survive. At the same time, however, there are many layers to mindsets. The very central one, relating back to re-branding a la Mr. Modi, is to be connected to our immediate neighbours – unlike our earlier focus on shining before the eyes of USA. “The change in mindset now is to discover who we are and what we want. There’s clarity about the good things and the things you don’t like about the relationship with others [countries],” remarked Arun Maira.

And, of course, no discussion on innovation would be complete without a mention of FDI, sparked by Modi’s popular phrase “First develop in India.”

“I wondered why he said it and don’t understand what he meant. You don’t want foreigners to invest here or you want Indians to invest here? FDI is a grossly overrated component of measuring growth. It’s important for capital and technology but basic problem is that Indian businesses are not investing. They need to loosen up, know that the government is working, and that there’s continuity,” observed Elliot. He contends Modi’s changed the image of India’s foreign policy but needs to come back and firm things up, appoint ministers, make sure bureaucrats are taking decisions. There are a whole lot of problems that need working on.

Arun Maira drew references from his book Redesigning the Aeroplane and asked if there was a need to reconsider what we consider important. “If I care about sustainability and inclusion, I would need a measure for it. I care about those things because my economic results won’t keep coming out much longer. We can’t be having single measures and expect to be integrated into a system. We have to redesign our measurement cards. We’re in a stage where we know we have to do different things and do things differently and in doing that we get challenged. People want reforms for institutions, business people, however, want no change” he suggested.

Benedict Parmanand, on the other hand, felt that the need of the hour is a system that’s friendlier – “People are ready to change. Large ones [companies] are taking initiative. It’s a misconception to say Indian companies are not sustainable by nature. Indian systems are sustainable by themselves. If systems become clearer, however, the move towards sustainability will be better.”

By the end, after the possible re-christening of jugaad as innovation or Tarkeeb Nikal Lenge to marveling the changed mindsets of the population by the general elections, the panelists and audience were in complete agreement with Arun Maira when he said, “India should be a place where a lot of fireflies live, where they produce a lot of light in the places that they want to have light.”