CBC Toronto - Photo By Timothy Neesam
Jugaad
India's improvised vehicles are one example of the spirit of jugaad - making things work by any means possible. These improvised vehicles are sometimes referred to as jugaad. (AP)

Ties to India

The Three Elements of Jugaad

"Jugaad" was originally the nickname for a vehicle in India - more contraption than car. By now, it's evolved to mean everything from a personal philosophy to a management style. Jugaad also captures the 'never-say-die' energy of the world's largest economy and of a makeshift approach - often the best response in a country with scarce resources.

As a business class immigrant from India, Pradeep Sood knows firsthand the ingenuity of poverty-stricken villagers whose resourcefulness gave rise to the word, jugaad.

Audio: Mary Wiens asks businessman Pradeep Sood what the word jugaad means when it comes to doing business.
Listen audio (runs 6:29)

It started in the Punjab region where makeshift vehicles were contrived around a water pump, a common piece of equipment in villages where many homes still don't have running water. Add three or four wheels, a body, and there you have it. The vehicles aren't legal, but you often see them on the roads because they do the job on a shoestring.

To Sood, the car perfectly illustrates the kind of creativity born of necessity in his homeland, which by now has lent its name to a certain approach to life and the ability to find a solution in the face of what appears to be certain failure.

He gives me an example from his own business experience.

Pradeep Sood
Pradeep Sood

A Good Match

Sood, who has managed an eclectic range of businesses, from his Toronto-based transcription company, XactScribe Inc., to a plant-growing operation on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, was once hired to manage a company in Burundi that manufactured safety matches.

Much of the inventory was damaged while being stored in a damp warehouse. "You couldn't light a single match," says Sood.

In Burundi, matches were already in short supply - a crisis in a country where many people can't cook without lighting their stoves. That too, says Sood, is part of jugaad - a certain desperation to make things work:

"And I said, you know what, why don't we put it out in the sun? And believe it or not, we did it for a month continuously, and everything dried up. Now very often a person would say, oh, it's not working, let's throw it away. But the sun was a great thing to do. It was very inventive thinking, I must say, and it worked. And not one - not one box of matches came back. That's jugaad. Because you're already thinking outside the box."

No Planning Required

There are three elements to jugaad, says Sood: limited resources, innovation on the fly, and success.

All three were at play the year Sood hosted a fundraising ball for Toronto's Bridgepoint Health Centre. British Airways had donated a couple of plane tickets to Bombay. Another business person had donated a hotel stay. In moments, the crowd, which included several hundred Indo-Canadians, had pushed a package worth $12,000 up to a bid of $55,000, the most ever raised at the hospital's annual fundraiser.

Like all jugaad, says Sood, it happened "without any planning", and with everyone contributing a different strategy.

Sood says that's another aspect of jugaad. It's about setting aside process in favour of the quick solution; something he believes doesn't happen often enough in Toronto. As the past co-chair of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and former President of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, Sood knows the business culture of his adopted city almost as well as the one in which he grew up.

"Here we go purely by the book," says Sood, "which is fair, it's a process. I respect the process, but there are certain times you've got to do something in the nick of time to save the situation or to help someone. So from that point of view, it's important that people are a little more free-thinking in terms of their innovativeness."

The Spirit of Innovation

A survey of Indian businesses by the Legatum Institute, an investment group headquartered in Dubai, found that 81 per cent of people surveyed said that the principle of jugaad was critical to their success.

Sood says that spirit of innovation, and the ability to improvise solutions, will become more important in an era of fewer resources and global competition.

"I mean, can you imagine if India became prosperous the way the West was," says Sood. "It would be impossible. There has to be the element of jugaad, of being creative. The problem comes to you and it may be a most unusual solution and you may not be able to repeat it, but it allows you to move forward."

Your experience

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