Published by : Industrial Automation
Towards a Self-Reliant India
There was a time when Indian ingenuity gave birth to Jugaad – the term that symbolises the ability to improvise anything for convenience in the absence of resources. There are literally thousands of examples of how self-made entrepreneurs across the country devised Jugaad solutions to overcome practical problems. Jugaad was a mixed bag – not all of it was good, though it served a purpose. While coupling a water pump for irrigation to the tractor’s output shaft by Punjab farmers is a good example, there were also the not-so-good ones like the notorious small diesel engine powered fish carts on Chennai streets that caused many accidents a couple of decades ago. Jugaad also was later blamed for lack of innovation to rise above a certain level.
All this changed with the term ‘frugal engineering’, coined in 2006 by Carlos Ghosn, then Chief Executive of French automobile giant Renault, to describe Ratan Tata’s dream car Nano. While Nano, when it finally appeared in 2009, failed to appeal to the masses, it nevertheless inspired a lot of other innovations, including the hugely successful commercial vehicle Ace from the very Tata Group. Inspired by the same frugal engineering concept, and launched earlier in 2005, the Tata Ace revolutionised the last mile delivery segment in India with the competition too latching on the idea.
In a much acclaimed article published in 2010, ‘The Importance of Frugal Engineering', authors Vikas Sehgal, Kevin Dehoff and Ganesh Panneer had summed it up neatly: “Frugal engineering is not simply low-cost engineering. It is not a scheme to boost profit margins by squeezing the marrow out of suppliers’ bones. It is not simply the latest take on the decades-long focus on cost cutting. Instead, frugal engineering is an overarching philosophy that enables a true ‘clean sheet’ approach to product development”.
This edition on Industrial Automation features a lead story on Frugal Innovations – Scalable Automation as the way forward towards a self-reliant India. The lead story, complemented by articles from several other technocrats, explores the idea of how frugal innovations and scalable automation can help Indian companies compete with the rest of the world in the highly complex manufacturing sweepstakes. Yet there are divergent viewpoints. Not every expert is a votary of frugal engineering. There are those who believe India needs the best technologies to boost its manufacturing sector that is still struggling to raise its contribution to the GDP after six years of the Make in India campaign. But even the MNCs have long recognised India as a different market and relied upon the concept of frugal engineering to manufacture innovative products not just for the Indian market but also to cater to the requirements of other developing countries.