Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt
Uttar Pradesh, India

In current times we have become adept at making do with what we have. Recent supermarket shortages have taught us if you are unable to buy baking powder, you make do with bi carb.

Due to war time rationing of many food items including eggs and sugar, women could no longer bake fancy cakes. Scones became a popular alternative as they made do with what they had.

Ways to Make Do

  • Growing our own fruit and vegetables, using those that are in season instead of importing from overseas reduces our carbon footprint.
  • Flexible thinking is required as we are encouraged to think outside the square when sourcing our goods. We can no longer rely on imported goods from countries such as China.
  • Improvising using limited resources has been used by many in lockdown who found ways to amuse themselves overcoming harsh constraints. Essential face masks have been created by cutting up socks, bras and even underpants.
  • Recycling and upcycling are encouraged especially with our clothing. It is time to get out our sewing machines and see what we can create or redesign. Get out the wool and crochet hooks!
  • Nifty and thrifty women during war time cut up men’s trousers to make into children’s clothes.  They also mended sheets until they could be cut up to make other useful items.
  • Frugal innovation is a hot topic today as the world faces issues of rising unemployment, a scarcity of resources, an economic downturn and threat of recession.

Strategies of Survival

A survival strategy in India adopted by households with meagre resources is known as jugaad, a colloquial Hindi word, it means making do with what little one has and can involve a simple work-around or a solution that bends the rules a little.

Jugaad also lends its name to a vehicle used in the north of India made from various car and tractor parts. It speaks of the hardship of rural Indians who practice this non-conventional frugal innovation out of necessity, often endangering themselves and others in the process.

The practice of jugaad sometimes attracts humour, ridicule or incredulity as circulated on YouTube social media. Turban-wearing Punjabi men riding motorcycles who want to use their mobile, put the phone in their turban so they can talk hands-free. Men using old washing machines to mix up their lassi yoghurt drinks

Charcoal burner to boil the Chai

In contrast to these perceptions, jugaad has also become a source of national pride. Serious innovations have brought more value to more Indians at less cost, such as delivering affordable electricity on a pay-as you-go basis to people who would otherwise have no power.

  • SELCO India, a sustainable energy provider sells solar panels to a network of small entrepreneurs who in turn use them to charge battery-powered lights rented to households outside the country’s electricity grid.
  • GE Healthcare’s Indian engineers have invented an ingenious electrocardiogram in a backpack so it can be easily transported to remote parts of rural India where there is limited access to medical facilities.
Dhobi Khana, Cochin

A Theory or a Necessity?

When I wrote about jugaad in Chasing Marigolds, I was impressed at how people in India were able to adapt, improvise and innovate using the limited resources available.

I had no idea that jugaad had become an innovation theory that is proving to be increasingly influential in the marketing departments of Western corporations.

In the West, with the global economy set for a long period of austerity, jugaad is an alternative attitude for many countries as they seek to innovate and grow in a resource constrained business environment. Promoting frugality and flexible thinking helps tackle scarcity of all forms of resources.

Dhobi Khana, Cochin

While the Western world contemplates this theory of seeking solutions in adversity using improvisation and ingenuity, we should not lose sight of the sheer disparity of socio-economic relations in the world.

Rather than being an attitude to be emulated in the West, Jugaad should be remembered for what it is: a stark reality facing people every day of their lives in India and many other developing countries.

Om shanti

Moira

4 Comments

  1. Aggie on August 15, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    The saying “necessity is the mother of invention “ certainly saw the development of creativity.

    • Moira on August 16, 2020 at 8:39 am

      Hi Aggie

      Yes and sometimes it takes a catalyst to change our way of thinking.

      Moira

  2. CHRISTINE EYRES on August 16, 2020 at 7:21 am

    The environment is demanding that we all stop consuming so much and make do. I wish the world could be seized by the vision to make do, to take up the challenge to stop using fossil fuels and plastic.

    • Moira on August 16, 2020 at 8:41 am

      Hi Christine

      Hopefully our current situation will force people to change their way of thinking and take action to save our planet.

      Moira

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