Foreign Policy Magazine

The Case Against Frugal Innovation

Jugaad once symbolized India’s potential, but the endless shortcuts are now holding the country back.

WHEN I WAS A CHILD GROWING UP IN KOLKATA, I could count on one hand the different types of cars chugging around the city’s streets. Each of the brands was made in India. In those years, which preceded the country’s 1991 economic reforms, global companies were still cut off from India’s then-nascent, protectionist economy. It was with some wonder, then, that I noticed what looked like a Mercedes-Benz sedan pull up by my school one day. But this was no luxury German car. On closer inspection, the strange vehicle was in fact the most common Indian sedan of the time but with an unusually sleek and elongated hood welded on and painted over to match the rest of the car’s body. As a finishing touch, atop

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