Indian core value: Jugaad – getting complex things done with human resources

Jun 13, 2019  · by

A motorbike's rear wheel has been adapted as a power source for a water pump


Multitasking like Shiva

There may a great deal of chaos in Indian society, but they manage it better than you do. To help you understand the seemingly chaotic nature of India, think of the Hindu god Shiva. All-knowing and all-powerful, she’s multitasking and her many hands make it easy to get things done.

Creative engineering on a tight budget

Everyday life in India can seem to be random and chaotic, but in fact, most activity is based on a belief in Jugaad. We could define Jugaad as

  • engineering on a tight budget, or
  • creative, out-of-the-box thinking
  • life hacking.

Jugaad is almost always born out of necessity and dependence on low-cost resources. Jugaad is a solution which tends to bend or even break the rules. Jugaad-thinking is like this:

“If I can make this work and make my life easier, and get away with it, then, why shouldn’t I?”

Not blocked by rules or missing resources

This cultural value is useful in situations where the people-to-resources ratio are challenging. It is boosted by Indians’ general disregard for keeping rules (especially legal and weakly enforced rules) and from a widespread lack of faith in being able to “get things done” by legal or formal means.

Giving teams belief that they can succeed

Jugaad represents resilience and an ability to make things work, despite challenges and hardships. It gives people hope that things will get done. Informal and possibly non-standard, this is the Indian way to operate via relationships and insider knowledge. It is a powerful force of culture that says, “I am inventive.”

Jugaad in practice

A writer for CultureConnector tells the following story.

In an office-supplies shop, the Indian shopworker gave me an extraordinary insight into Jugaad. Her shop was more like a disorderly bazaar than a retail outlet inspiring confidence and organisation for getting things done. Not one millimetre of space was wasted. Aisles were narrow, dark and tall, stacked high with mixed office products including envelopes, books, stationery, files and folders. Binders were squeezed in next to pens, markers, and pencils. Calendars were lying on art supplies, games, gifts and other office essentials.

All this made me feel office-supply overload, so when I asked for her help, I wasn’t convinced that she would ever find the stapler I had asked her for. However, she moved us lightly through the store and pulled a giant ladder. As I watched her climb, she reached deep into an unlikely dark corner, way back, high on the top shelf and a moment later handed me the exact stapler I needed. How she knew where to locate it, hidden in such a vast collection was incomprehensible. But there it was. I left the store, amazed. It was as if she had the contents of the store completely memorised, like a treasure map, in her head.

Try the 2013 Bollywood movie The Lunchbox for a great story based on Jugaad.

India may be messy, but it works.

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