Frugal Innovation – Scalable Solutions
Published by : Industrial Automation
Organisations that are successful in frugal innovation have strategies in place to promote speed of delivery and cost effective solutions, says Dr Pradeep Chatterjee.
As rightly put by Navi (et al) in HBR Dec 2014 – “Most companies today operate linear value chains, in which products are designed, produced, sold and consumed and end up in landfills. This linear economic model is wasteful, costly, and environmentally unsustainable. Instead, to be resource-efficient, CEOs must reinvent their value chains to operate in a ‘circular’ way, by embracing new sustainable methods of design (like cradle-to-cradle or C2C) and production and distribution (like industrial symbiosis). These circular economy techniques enable the continual reuse of materials, parts and components, and even waste.”
Since there is scarcity of resources in rural areas or in developing countries and people use waste to develop something meaningful, these (countries) become the hub of frugal innovation. Since frugal innovation is a low cost solution (as the coconut tree climber or fridge without electricity) people often relate it to rural innovation or innovation to be used in developing countries. It achieves the highest value curve for the customer. So in real sense there is no harm in using frugal innovation in urban areas or developed countries as well.
Frugal innovation gives an agile solution with different levels of prototyping from limited resources, which helps to reduce cost of the product without compromising functionality and quality. Organisations can have different go-to-market strategies for rural and urban sectors or developing and developed economies. There can be different product strategies depending on needs of the sectors. But basis that branding frugal innovation for rural or developing economy may be a misnomer.
Quite often I have read frugal innovation being referred to as ‘Jugaad’. I think this mindset of people has to change as ‘Jugaad’ normally refers to makeshift arrangements in Hindi. By referring a low cost innovation (Frugal Innovation) to solve a problem as ‘Jugaad’ we are demeaning the innovation, which the individual has developed. Frugal innovation is not at all a temporary solution, it is a low cost solution developed with agility and with whatever resources are available. It might not have been derived from ‘theory first approach’, but there is a theory working behind the solution, which, if we can co-relate, makes it an innovation.
Frugal innovation does not follow the top-down R&D approach. There are stringent processes in standard R&D approach, due to which it loses flexibility and becomes complex. Frugal innovation can be promoted through crowdsourcing of ideas and solutions. It is always better to look outside the organisation boundaries and leverage the capabilities beyond your horizon. In some cases, support from government for small and medium scale enterprises may be required to take some of these steps. It can help to conceptualise and modify the ideas conceived in these small organisations and make it a scalable solution for the industry. To make such innovations scalable, it is necessary to develop a go-to-market strategy for a rapid volume scale up thereby helping to reduce cost further.
Organisations that are successful in frugal innovation have strategies in place to promote speed of delivery and cost effective solutions. Speed is achieved through iterative quick experimentation and cost control is achieved through efficient implementation.
To speed up innovations, organisations need to simplify organisation structures, eliminate bureaucracy and empower employees. Organisations with legacy baggage need to bring in startup mind-set to be successful in low cost innovation.
Taking these concepts of frugal innovation, several organisations (primarily startups) are developing IIoT based automation solutions. 3D printing to speed up product development and reducing set up time of manufacturing and making parts available on site when required are some of the examples. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) speeds up the development time of a product. Even AR/VR solutions eliminate the need of physical assets and can be made accessible to people to check out products distant away. This enables easy reach to customers. Remote monitoring provides easy access to subject matter experts to provide effective engagements. Low cost hardware with efficient algorithms helps to bring down cost of IIoT based solutions so that more organisations, including small organisations, can reap the benefits of IIoT.
We are promoting frugal innovation by developing low cost scalable solutions, to enhance experience of customers. Our solutions are AI (Artificial Intelligence) based solutions related to manufacturing and other industry verticals. We designed solutions for Quality Assurance, Voice Call Analysis, Chatbots for multiple use cases in Sales, Service, Feedback, Employee Engagement, etc. We have developed industry agnostic frugal innovative solutions so that organisations are able to achieve their strategic goals in cost effective manner. This is our frugal innovation mantra of ‘more with less’.
Dr Pradeep Chatterjee is Head – Digital Transformation & Experience Management at Global Delivery Centre, Tata Motors. He has setup a Digital Business model to provide low cost digital solutions to Tata Motors, Tata Motors group companies and other organisations across industry verticals. Dr Chatterjee is an Electrical and Electronics Engineer and Ph.D in Artificial Intelligence in Electric Drives from BIT Mesra. He has 25 years of experience across industrial automation, IT and emerging digital technologies.