Frugal Innovation, an Indian Approach of Capitalism

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“The frugal innovation” is synonymous with quality products and services, accessible to all. Sam Pitroda, an ardent advocate of this approach, wants to make innovation the driving force of growth.

“The emergence of India will change the destiny of the world,” says the father of the telecom revolution in India. Serial entrepreneur, visionary and now an adviser to Indian Prime Minister innovations, Sam Pitroda implements a decidedly Indian capitalism: innovation called “frugal” or Jugaad in Hindi, namely the creation and marketing in a context of limited resources, products and quality services, accessible to all.

It is one of the first to have successfully demonstrated that this approach could revolutionize the lives of millions of Indians by reinventing Gandhian dream. Today, faithful to the message of his illustrious mentor, he sees in frugal innovation a key to creating a model of sustainable and inclusive development of India , adapted to the challenges of the 21st century.

Allow access to all Indian telecom

In early 1980, the son of a poor peasant family, originally from Gujarat and migrated to the United States, takes a crazy project: to enable access for all Indian telecommunications. And this at a time when only 3% of 600,000 Indian villages had telephone and where it takes several years for the opening of a line.

“For me, it was obvious that telecommunications were the key to opening up and the emancipation of the masses,” argues trembling excitement yet Sam Pitroda. At 70, after cancer and two heart attacks, it retains all the energy of youth. It is this innovative and revolutionary who laid the foundations of the burgeoning telecom in India. “The idea was to bring technology to the poorest. Latter is too often seen as exotic and expensive city. Our goal was to reduce poverty , disparities, stimulate the development process. “

Digital telephone adapted to Indian context

The project of this fiery young entrepreneur conquers Gandhi: Indira first Prime Minister at the time, and after his assassination in 1984, her son Rajiv. The new Prime Minister gives carte blanche to Sam Pitroda to develop their project without being bound hand and foot to the sweltering Indian bureaucracy. In 1984, Sam created an independent public but the “Centre for Development of Telematics” or C-DOT. Surrounding himself with a small team of young people with an average of just over 25 years, he managed to develop in record time a digital telephone exchange technology adapted to the Indian context: simple, robust and low-cost industrially.

Nearly 25 million payphones bright yellow token, referred to Public Call Offices (PCOs) are installed on the markets, street corners, isolated stores across the country. They mark the landscape of the subcontinent as well as the attitudes of millions of Indians. His success makes C-DOT project model and an icon Sam Pitroda, demonstrating that frugal innovation is a powerful lever for development.

Cheaper services and good quality products

“Contrary to what many believe, frugal innovation is synonymous with good quality products and not just cheaper, with services not just products, with new design rather than simplification and finally often with high technology”, says Sam Pitroda, during a lecture at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, before an audience of young students hanging on his lips.

To all those that inspired Sam Pitroda inspires almost religious faith in the country , he believes will play a vital role for the future of humanity. “India is faced with three major challenges: developing disparity and demography. This is like the rest of the world. So we must learn to create in a world of resources increasingly rare or inequalities are more glaring. All this requires a radical change of mentality. Whereas the West is always to improve economic system created in the 19th century! “

Key elements of innovation :

  1. Outsource all non-core activities
  2. Use technology in imaginative ways
  3. Apply mass production techniques in unexpected areas

Make innovation the driving of Indian growth

After the re-election of the Congress Party in 2004 and 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called him to his side. While India still has more than 800 million people living on less than two euros per day despite a growth rate that is approaching 8%, the government wants Sam Pitroda helps fight against poverty. In 2005, as president of the “National Commission for Knowledge,” and in 2009, as adviser to the Prime Minister for “Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations,” Sam Pitroda’s mission is to make the innovation engine of growth and competitiveness in the 21st century India.

At a time when countries around the world see the innovation through the narrow prism of research and technology, Sam Pitroda says that this approach “is outdated because any innovation must be redefined. This is tool to create sustainable and affordable solutions for the bottom of pyramid . ” Realizing the strategic potential of frugal innovation for the country, the Prime Minister said the period 2010-2020 the “Decade of Innovation”. He asks Sam Pitroda to form a “National Council of Innovation” (NINC) that will define a plan of action.

Advice innovation in every state of Indian

Sat assembles twelve influential academics and entrepreneurs in the Indian NINC. Among them, the path very different personalities to think better innovation. Dr. Devi Shetty cardiologist engineering that tailors Fordist methods in cardiovascular surgery open heart by reducing costs by ten, Ms. Ramdorai – one of the most brilliant mathematicians of India, or the director and producer Shekhar Kapur joined NIC.

NINC implements the advice of innovation in every state of the Indian federation. It also promotes the creation of Sector Councils to promote innovation in all key sectors of the Indian economy, such as telecommunications, trade and industry, health, justice, energy … The NINC also seeks to control the reorganization of many Indian corporations and bubbling (weavers, blacksmiths, tanners, etc..) In clusters capable of structuring their capital-traditional knowledge into a competitive advantage.

Indian fund to support innovation is inclusive launched with the support of the Ministry of Finance in 2012. With a public capital from 15 million but open to private and international actors, Sam Pitroda hope he can quickly weigh a billion euros. Its vision is to offer a real lever for frugal innovation. “The challenges are as complex as those we face can not be solved with an approach to incremental improvement, says Sam Pitroda behalf of the Council. Rather call this a radical change, tectonics! Innovation is frugal and inclusive movement “.

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