Frugal Innovation – bringing Grassroot creativity to the Global stage

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Frugal innovation is about creating advantage out of constraint.

~ Kirsten Bound, Head International Innovation Research, National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta).

 

The ‘Grassroot to Global’ (G2G) approach for innovation, propagated by National Innovation Foundation (NIF) of India, is set to change the way the world looks at the creativity and innovations at grassroots.

It subscribes to the concept of ‘frugal innovation, which involves use of local resources to come up with affordable, functional products that provide value for money and good user experience. The G2G model is developed to take creativity and knowledge that exists at the grassroots level and transform it into valuable innovation for the global marketplace.

Connecting Grassroot to Global
Connecting Grassroot to Global

 

The origin of the term ‘frugal engineering is credited to Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance in 2006, who coined the term after he was impressed by the ability of Indian engineers’ to innovate cost-effectively and quickly under severe resource constraints.

With businesses wanting to “do more with less resources”, firms such as Renault-Nissan, Siemens, and Unilever have embraced the concept of frugal innovation.

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Busting the myth of Manliness in Indian society

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Mard ko dard nahin hota.

Amitabh Bachchan had declared in his characteristic style in ‘Mard’, one of the memorable Bollywood blockbusters from the 1980s. Translated in English it means ‘A real man does not feel pain’.

This stereotypical projection of men in India, has time and again been exemplified by the society, perpetrated through the movies, and reinforced by many parents while raising their children.

In a thought provoking show ‘When Masculinity Harms Men’ in Satyamev Jayate’, Aamir Khan took a step towards busting the myth of manliness that exists in the Indian society.

Here is what Mr Bachchan said on the show.

Gender sensitivity

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To forcefully instill values in the male child to constantly act like a man or to behave violently is wrong.  ~Amitabh Bachchan

A far cry from his iconic dialogue!

Power, aggression, control are classified as ‘masculine’ traits, while caring, sharing, expressing emotions or crying are the typically seen as ‘feminine’ traits.

These notions are instilled in the mind of male children right from their childhood. Any small boy, who cries, is consoled saying he shouldn’t cry like a girl, since he is physically stronger. Mothers urge their sons to beat up other children rather than get bullied or beaten up. The image of a ‘Macho‘ man endowed with enormous physical strength, gets so  imprinted in the mind of male children that it often leads them to believe that “masculinity“ is about demonstration of power rather than about human consideration or sensitivity. As such, they value aggression more than reason, and at times they tend to believe that they will be more admired and can get away with whatever they do if they are more aggressive or violent.

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Why society should accept Alternative Sexuality

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Alan Turing, whose pioneering work laid the mathematical foundations of computer, was convicted for homosexuality and subjected to chemical castration that drove him to suicide. His suicide prompted the British government to amend laws concerning homosexuality.

~ Aamir Khan on ‘Accepting Alternative Sexuality’ episode of his show Stayamev Jayate that touched upon the sensitive issue of the rights of LGBT community to live freely and openly.

Alan Turing was the British mathematical genius, logician and cryptanalyst who had invented the Turing machine, which laid the foundation for creation of modern computers. By cracking the German military’s secret code, Turing had helped the British Navy defeat Hitler’s U-boats and win the Battle of the Atlantic, in the World War II. He was a marathon runner too, with world class time, and was named as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, by TIME magazine in 1999.

 

Alan Turing
Alan Turing

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Mumbai – A Green City Turning Grey

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

Standing by the open window railing on my room, as I sip my morning tea looking at the coconuts swinging from the tree at a stone’s throw, I struggle each day to reconcile with how the view has changed over the last two years.

The open space on both sides, where there used to be a nursery and a school playground is now covered up with high-rise flats that are in the last stage of construction. In place of the variety of plants and flowers in the nursery, stands a burly concrete mixer humming throughout the day. Scaffoldings along the walls of buildings and reinforcement rods jutting out of the columns from the roof of an under-construction parking lot make an unseemly sight.

Green Mumbai

I feel let down and so do the other residents of the building. But do we complain? Not much!

Financial wisdom tells us that with the land prices having appreciated more than 5 times, we should not be complaining. Likewise, constructing high rise buildings on a prime property makes more commercial sense for builder; so what if the land was initially earmarked for a school playground and a park.

Besides enjoying the facility of a plush club house with a well equipped gym and swimming pool, residents also get the privilege of a view into the interiors of other flats from their houses. Read more

Why JUGAAD Innovation Is Smart but Not Sustainable

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

The use of ‘Jugaad Innovation’, as a management philosophy, has received much attention from business and academic community all over the world, particularly the west. Essentially an Indian phenomenon, Jugaad is seen as an approach through which people devise indigenous work-around methods to overcome constraints.

To the western world, Jugaad Innovation is projected as the use of frugal and flexible approach to innovation, used in emerging countries to bring about breakthrough growth. This concept as elucidated in the book ‘Jugaad Innovation’ by [Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja, Kevin Roberts] found huge popularity in many developed nations of the west and in Japan, where companies have incurred huge investments in R&D, with limited returns in the past few years.

Jugaad Innovation
Jugaad : Cost effective machine to roast corn.

 

The use of low cost innovative solutions finds universal appeal, particularly when businesses worldwide are reeling under the pressure of resource constraints.

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Putting Kabaddi Back on Track – an Innovative CSR Intiative

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

Kabbaddi is in vogue now! 

 

The rustic Indian game that nobody thought much about has suddenly become fashionable.

With the Television channels broadcasting the live game in its slick 45 minute format, men, women and kids alike have taken a liking to the game. Spectators are enthralled by the combination of skill, tactics, footwork, agility and the reflexes of the players. Four or five defenders coiling around a raider to bring him down, or the raider extricating himself from his opponents to retreat to his home court, make an exciting watch.

Earlier what was seen as a semi – urban or a rural game is now being viewed as strategic and even glamorous.  It is exhilarating to see the raider as he tries to discern the strategy of the defenders, and withholds his breath during the entire course of the raid in his opponents’ court, while continuously and audibly chanting the word ‘Kabaddi’.

Media coverage of the Kabaddi matches played in stadiums all over the country, cutting edge graphics and presence of celebrities have upped the glamour quotient the game and created the right buzz.

Pro Kabaddi League

 

Role of India Inc in resurrecting Kabaddi 

 

Admittedly, the credit goes to India Inc for reviving the game and presenting it in a format that appeals not only to people from the interiors of the country, but also to school going kids living in the metros, who have also started following the game. The short duration matches the young viewers’ attention span.

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Six charts that show the state of Innovation in India

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Economists, academicians for long have recognized the role of innovation in a country’s economic growth. National innovative capacity is defined as the ability of a country – as both a political and economic entity – to produce and commercialize a flow of innovative technology over the long term.

As India takes on its path to economic recovery, the time is apt to look at the state of innovation in India, reflected in its R&D capability. Though the growth of R & D services has been consistently high at around 20% in the last few years, but India ranks low in its capacity for innovation as compared to developed nations as well as other BRICS nations. In the global gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) of US$ 1.6 trillion for 2014, India’s share is around 3%, which is around five times lower than that of China.

The Economic Survey Report of India 2013-2014 has highlighted the current state of R&D services in India. A look at the following charts reveals the determinants of India’s innovative capacity and the opportunities for improvement in this area.

Capacity for innovation

According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2013-14 released by World Economic Forum in Sept 2013, India’s capacity for innovation has been lower than 3 of the other BRICS countries (Brazil, China, and South Africa).

Innovation Capacity
Data: Economic survey 2013-2014

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‘The Flaws In Our Laws’ By Dr Bibek Debroy | Absurdities Of Indian Laws – Part II

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

Continuing from my last post ‘The Flaws In Our Laws’ By Bibek Debroy | My Scribbling Of The Session – Part I, here I proceed to  jot down the next two anecdotes that were also the most interesting anecdotes of the session.

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Identifying Surplus Government Posts

 

Anecdote 3 was about identifying redundant government posts to recommend their abolishment.

The story, as narrated to Dr Debroy by a retired senior civil officer goes as follows…

In 1973, an Administrative Reforms Commission was set up in Tamil Nadu to find posts in the system that appeared to be redundant. Two such posts identified were that of LBK, LBA. Nobody seemed to have a clue about what these abbreviations stood for, nor about the duties assigned to these posts.

Some facts unfurled when people who had retired from these positions and were drawing pensions were called upon to enquire about the posts.

In 1926, a Royal Commission on Agricultural Reform was set to improve the quality of agriculture in India . The Commission was set up under the Chairmanship of Lord Linlithgow, who later became the Viceroy of India and served from 1936 – 1943. It was decided by the Commission that agricultural productivity would be improved by improving the quality of Indian cattle by breeding Indian cows with foreign bulls. The system was as slow then as it is today, maybe much more slower. Nothing moved on the recommendations of the Royal Commissions.

Ten years on, in 1936 when it was announced that Lord Linlithgow would be the new Governor General, things suddenly stirred up in the system. The new Viceroy would certainly want to know what had happened to his recommendations.

In the government system, creating new positions is just as difficult as slashing jobs. So to get things moving, two job positions were created by invoking the name of Lord Linlithgow . The position LBK stood for Linlithgow’s Bull Keeper, who was assigned with the task of overseeing the import of bulls, while LBA’s (Linlithgow’s Bull Assistant’s) job was to ensure that cows were impregnated at the right time.Bull

As we were in splits of laughter, he added that though these posts were abolished in the early 1980s. Yet there was another post that still continued past the 1980s. Read more

‘The Flaws In Our Laws’ By Dr Bibek Debroy | Absurdities Of Indian Laws – Part I

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

On rare occasions, it happens that a person can dig into a complex topic with remarkable ease and make perfect sense to a diverse group of listeners, while capturing their attention all along and making the subject exceptionally interesting.  Dr Bibek Debroy is certainly one of those people blessed with such rare ability. Fascinated by his knowledge on the vast array of subjects he tweets about, I had registered for the seminar arranged by MoneyLife Foundation, to hear Dr Debroy speak on the Flaws in Indian Laws.

I reached the Royal Bombay Yacht Club just 5 min before the start of the event. The building is just at a stone’s throw from the Gateway Of India and has an old world charm about it. With hardly any time in hand to appreciate the architecture, I rushed into the hall and yet found myself seated on a single vacant seat on the 2nd row.  And there I was, all set to listen to one of the most interesting sessions by the noted economist, columnist and author.

So the session began. Right from the word ‘go’, it was replete with anecdotes that held the audience in rapturous attention and we found ourselves intermittently bursting into peals of laughter at the absurdities existing in the Indian laws. I am recollecting here some of the numerous anecdotes shared, which I had managed to scribble down.

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The Trigger For Initiating A Research Project For Legal Reforms.

 

The 1st anecdote was about an unexpected and a seemingly innocuous event that had provided the trigger for initiating a research project by the Government Of India for Legal Reforms.

The story goes back to the year 1993.

One day Dr Ashok Desai, then the Chief Economic Consultant to the Govt. of India,  invited Bibek Debroy for lunch to ask about his interest in heading the research project. He gave him the time between the start of lunch & dessert to make up his mind. The project was approved by none other than our ex PM Dr Manmohan Singh, who was then, the Finance Minister Of India.

Quite in line with the thesis of a book called ‘Accidental India’, written by Shankar Aiyar,  much of what happens in India, happens purely by accident rather than by design, the prompt for the project inadvertently came from Dr Ashok Rudra, a scholar, economist and professor at the University of Vishva Bharti. Read more

Inbuilt Apathy Towards Road Traffic Accidents In India

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A few days back a young man from Kurukshetra, Dikshant Sharma had started a petition requesting Aamir Khan to take up the issue of Road Accidents in India on his show Satyamev Jayate.

After I signed the petition [i], I surfed for information on road traffic accidents and came to know the following facts:

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for young people in developing countries. India accounts for about 10% of road crash fatalities worldwide.

One person dies every five minutes on Indian roads. Going by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), this figure is expected to escalate to one death every three minutes by 2020 [ii]. In terms of absolute numbers more people die in road crashes in India than anywhere else in the world.

Every other day we read in the newspapers about road accidents. Unresponsive governance coupled with personal apathy makes the situation worse and many are left to die on the streets even when hospitals are close by.

Infographics - Road Traffic Accidents
Infographics – Road Traffic Accidents

 

The disconcerting question is why do these recurring incidents of traffic death remain as just statistics and do not stir up the authorities or people in general? Read more

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