WORKING WITH INDIA? YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THE CULTURAL CONCEPT OF JUGAAD !
by Susan Gandhi Schultz
If you have ever visited India, you might be flummoxed by the flexibility and chaos that seems to be exhibited in abundance.
In order to succeed in India one needs to be clever, innovative, resourceful and flexible. This is “Jugaad”.
In an environment that is constrained by limited resources, disorganized systems, and low government support, jugaad is essential. It also requires members of society be patient and have a high tolerance for ambiguity. However, sometimes jugaad can negatively impacts aspects like quality and safety. Of course, examples of this can be also seen in other countries in similar economic situations.
The above picture was taken from the balcony of my niece’s home, during my 2016 trip to Pune, India, where I was born and brought up.
From the top left to right are examples of jugaad.
1. Many homes have contraptions to extend living spaces.…often without the proper permits. The government person comes to check things? That’s when “tips” come in!
2. The street vendor with his makeshift store. Easy to move when the cops come!
3. The negative part of jugaad: garbage deposited in the open.
4. Have a low budget, and have produce to move and sell? Another practical invention — the handcart!
5. Very common to see scooters and other vehicles doing multiple jobs. I saw a scooter passenger sitting backwards, holding onto his empty handcart. He had sold all his produce, so his helpful friend was giving him a ride home.
6. At the bottom left is the motorized rickshaw which in itself is a perfect example of this jugaad ingenuity. Streets are narrow, public transportation is notoriously inefficient and overcrowded, and money is tight, so the rickshaw is a perfect solution! It is meant for about 3 people at most, but don’t be surprised to see 6 packed in. Jugaad after all!
In cross-cultural interactions it is easy to judge; but understanding the contextual reality helps us to avoid doing so.
Indians can be simultaneously proud and frustrated with jugaad. “Jugaad engineering” is an increasingly growing field of study. Jugaad management looks for flexibility, thrift and inclusion, so as to meet the needs of the budget conscious and remote consumer. However, when jugaad compromises quality, it affects the reputation of companies that are quality conscious, not to mention the impact on the consumer.
So when in India, be flexible, patient and determined. And admire the tenacity and creativity of its people.
Watch this fun video for more examples of Jugaad.
As an Intercultural Consultant, for over 25 years Susan Gandhi Schultz has worked with organizations to successfully develop global leaders, create effective global multi-cultural teams, guide expatriates, and build a cross-culturally inclusive workplace. She is currently authoring a book on Working Effectively Across Cultures, in which she shares insights from nationals from 30 countries on how to succeed when working with their cultures.