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Innovation special: Putting jugaad in its place

India’s brand of innovation, for long is associated with frugal innovation and jugaad. Except in the area of space exploration, India is found wanting in most spheres. The wheels of change have slowly but surely begun to roll as Indian universities and the industry is waking up to innovate. The need to shed the image of ‘jugaad nation’ is truly well and on  

-By A S L Narasimha Rao

The Global Innovation Index (GII),prepared by Cornell University, INSEAD andthe World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), recently ranked India as the 57th most innovative nation in the world in the league of 126 nations

For long, India has been associated with ‘jugaad’ roughly translated – a makeshift solution by improvisations to make things work. This image of India as a nation that comes up with makeshift solutions resulted in the term ‘indovation’. This imagery is slowly being erased as India is inching its way up and slowly gaining acceptance among the comity of nations.

The Global Innovation Index (GII), prepared by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), recently ranked India as the 57th most innovative nation in the world in the league of 126 nations. India has climbed up in the GII rankings compared to 2017.

India Climbs up GII rankings:

India Climbs uo GII ranking The GII indicators are grouped into innovation inputs and outputs. Innovation inputs capture the efforts made by the country to boost innovation. Innovation outputs measure the results of these efforts in terms of scientific publications, patents, trademarks, production, exports and other outputs.

Curiously, the list of top ten countries included some small countries. The top ten countries in GII were the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Singapore, United States of America, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Ireland.

The GII indicators that helped India improve its ranking included India’s human resources including graduates in science & engineering, growth rate of GDP per worker, exports of information and communication technology (ICT) and services, productivity growth, and creative goods exports. However, India did not do well on indicators including ease of starting business, political stability and safety, overall education and environmental performance.

Even though, India seems to be better placed in comparison to other Central and South Asian nations, it’s mainly because of software exports and not due to the overall performance in innovative indicators. The real scenario is that innovation in India is lagging compared to China primarily due to lack of administrative, social and educational reforms. There are many reasons why India is lagging behind when it comes to innovation.

Reasons for lack of innovation in India

Education is the fundamental area that needs to be reformed in order to improve innovative thinking. India is struggling to find answers for uplifting quality in higher educational institutions and there are not many institutions in India which encourage innovation.

A questioning mind can promote research and innovation, but the Indian education system starting from schools to colleges is wrought with principle of ‘accept whatever is told by the teacher’. The lecture method is still prevalent with hardly any involvement by the student.

The examination system in India is largely based on rote memory testing which does not allow a student the scope to innovate or to do research. The teachings in the educational institutions is confined only to syllabus, to make them score more rather than to gain more knowledge or skills.

The government does not give much importance to scientific research. There are few schemes sponsored by educational institutions and research academies to stimulate scientific temper and to promote innovation. A transparent funding mechanism is imperative to streamline R&D which is the soul of innovation.

The attitude of being averse to taste failures, which is a major impediment for venturing into innovation, is a serious issue. The best innovations in the world happened only after encountering many disruptions and witnessing many failures. People in India more or less got accustomed to routine education paths, routine jobs and routine businesses. Therefore, risk-taking has become taboo. Red tapism in governance and cumbersome government policies are major bottlenecks on the road to innovation.

Our Universities Must Focus on Innovation: Narendra Modi

Cabinet Approves Coverage of Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan YojanaIndian universities and higher education institutions need to give equal importance to innovation, as they give to knowledge, said Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

He said that Innovation is very important because without it, life seems like a burden. In our ancient universities like Takshshila, Nalanda and Vikramashila, innovation was given emphasis along with knowledge.

The prime Minister also stressed on importance of character building over literacy and called for ‘wholesome’ education in the country. He said, “Our universities and colleges should be leveraged to find solutions to the challenges facing us. We should interlink institutions to innovate and incubate. The students should link their classroom learning to the aspirations of the country.”

According to World Bank official Maloney, big and modern firms in India are not investing enough in R&D, moreover, vast majority of firms in India don’t have the capability to do R&D. The firms in India focus more on increasing productivity, rather than investing more on R&D.

There is even a historical perspective for lack of innovation in India. India was predominantly ruled by foreigners including Mughals and Britishers. As a result of subjugation for centuries under these rulers, the spirit of enquiry and innovation has taken a beating. The British rule designed the education system in a manner that produced clerks. India still follows the Macaulay’s model of 10+2+3 model of education.

According to Economic Survey in January 2018 India’s spending on R&D in terms of percentage of GDP has been stagnant at 0.6 to 0.7 per cent in the last two decades which is much lower than the US, China, South Korea and Israel.

India’s spending on science remains relatively low, at around 0.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in spite of its recent raise in spending on science by 10% to ₹536.2 billion ($8.4bn) for 2018-19, compared to previous year. India’s spend on R&D is significantly lagged global   counterparts    such   as   China (1.9%), Korea (3.8%) and the US (2.7%).


The Indian government has understood the importance of innovation for the inclusive growth and declared 2010-2020 as the ‘Decade of Innovation’. The primary objective of the programme is to develop an innovation-based ecosystem, which aims at producing solutions for the societal needs in terms of healthcare, energy, urban infrastructure, water and transportation.

National Innovation Foundation (NIF) has been pursuing the mission of making India innovative and a creative society since 2000 with the active support of Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

NIF is committed to making India innovative by documenting, adding value, protecting the intellectual property rights (IPR) of the contemporary unaided technological innovators as well as of outstanding traditional knowledge-holders and disseminating their innovations on commercial and non-commercial basis.

The budget for 2018-19 allocated ₹30.7 billion for a digital programme that includes artificial intelligence and cyber systems. Within Ministry of Science and Technology the Department of Science and Technology gets a 6.1% increase,to ₹51.1 billion, and the Department of Biotechnology gets a raise of 8.5%, with an allocation of ₹24.1 billion.

There was also an increase of budget allocation of 65% for Department of Biotechnology (DBT), almost 43% increase for Council of Scientific and

Industrial Research (CSIR), and 26% increase for Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) during the last five years.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is one amongst top 100 organisations in the world, which spearheads the industry relevant research. The R&D efforts of CSIR are aligned to the needs of the domestic industry and the social needs of the nation. They cater to the initiatives such as Make in India; Swachch Bharat, Clean Ganga, Swastha Bharat, Smart Cities, Smart Villages, clean, efficient, affordable and renewable energy technology solutions, and Innovate in India. The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has launched the Innovation Cell and Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) at All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) campus in New Delhi on August 30, 2018. The cell’s purpose is to systematically foster the culture of Innovation in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country. The primary mandate of Innovation Cell is to encourage, inspire and nurture young students by exposing them to new ideas and processes resulting in innovative activities in their formative years fostered through Network of Innovation clubs in Higher Educational Institutions.

Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)

In order to make India a global innovation hub, the youth of our country, especially in HEIs need to play a crucial role to create a sustainable innovation ecosystem. Therefore, it is imperative that all HEIs should have a comprehensive and functional mechanism to translate research into innovations, which can further encourage, inspire and nurture young students by attracting them to new ideas and processes resulting in innovative activities.

ARIIA will primarily focus on 5 main indicators:

Indicators Weightage
Budget Expenses and Revenue Generated Through Innovation 20
and Entrepreneurship Development
Facilitating Access to Advance Centres / Facilities and 10
Entrepreneurial Support System
Idea to Entrepreneurship 54
Development of Innovation Ecosystems Supported Through 10
Teaching & Learning
Best Innovative Solutions Developed In-House for Improving 6
Governance of your Institution
Total 100

Launched in 2007, the India Innovation Growth Programme (IIGP) 2.0 is a tripartite initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, in association with Lockheed Martin and Tata Trusts. It is aimed at supporting the Government of India’s missions of “Start-up India” and “Make in India”. It also enhances the Indian innovation ecosystem by enabling innovators and entrepreneurs through the stages of ideation, innovation and acceleration, to develop technology-based solutions for tomorrow.

The programme is complemented by several implementation partners including Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF), Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship identifies and supports both industrial       of the SIC is to document, network and social innovations. amplify the early stage ecosystem.(CIIE)   at   IIM   Ahmedabad,   Indian

Institute of Technology Bombay and the Tata Centre for Technology and Design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The programme’s objective is to build an innovation pipeline in India through a high-impact programme focused on the social and industrial innovation ecosystem.

The IIGP 2.0 programme has provided mentoring and handholding assistance to over 400 innovators coming from diverse sectors from across the country. It has also generated over 350 commercial agreements and over $900 million of economic value for India. Through two annual parallel tracks viz. University Challenge and Open Innovation Challenge, IIGP 2.0.

A questioning mind can promote research andinnovation, but the Indian education system starting from schools to colleges is wrought with principle of accept whatever is told by the teacher

Innovation across states

Some states in India have also started innovation cells for the promotion of qualitative change. The government of Telangana has launched its innovation cell in May 2017. The scope of it is to nurture early-stage start-ups and enable them to get into the market with T-Hub and Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH). The state has already acclaimed international reputation with the formation of State Innovation cell (SIC), which is currently located in IIIT Hyderabad and is being lead by Ramesh Loganathan, Professor Co-Innovation, IIIT Hyderabad.

The SIC has the single window for administering all incentives announced in the innovation policy for start-ups and incubators. The immediate focus


Located at the IIIT-H Campus, Gachibowli, T-hub has state-of-the-art 70,000 sq. ft. building called CatalysT, which is the largest building in India entirely dedicated to entrepreneurship. It anchors the entire Hyderabad start-up ecosystem by bringing the start-up community together.

T-Hub also focuses on developing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), electric vehicles and smart and connected cars, has created a smart mobility cluster that will look at all these new possibilities including the battery and drivetrain technology.

IIT campus,Hyderabad

Andhra Pradesh

The government of Andhra Pradesh has set up Andhra Pradesh Innovation Society (APIS) with a target to establish up to 100 incubators or accelerators, to incubate up to 5,000 companies and start-ups, to develop up to one million sq. ft. of incubation space, to mobilise up to ₹1,000 crore through venture capital, and to create at least one home grown billion dollar technology start-up by June 2019.


Chhattisgarh is ranked fourth among all Indian states in 2017, in terms of digital initiatives. The state government has formulated Chhattisgarh Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Policy to boost the Indian start-up ecosystem.

chhattisgarhIn April 2018, Chhattisgarh inaugurated 36 Inc, the country’s second largest start-up incubator, which is spread over 30,000 sq. ft. and has 200 workstations. The start-ups have access to mentorship and guidance from a team that comes with extensive experience both in India and abroad.

A total of 43 start-ups were part of the first two-year-long cohort working on a variety of sectors including edtech, drone technology, e-commerce and others. The incubator has several specialised labs for the start-ups, including the Fabled, which is part of the MIT Fablab network. It is equipped with 3D printers, a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine, laser cutter and other tools to enable rapid prototyping. The centre also houses a multimedia lab, an electronics testing lab and an Internet of Things (IoT) lab.

Chhattisgarh is focusing on various sectors including food processing, logistics and distribution, equipment manufacturing, textiles and apparel. The government is trying to attract investors by offering sector focussed plug and play infrastructure, and developing food parks, electronic manufacturing clusters, engineering parks, metal parks, solar SEZs. So far, investment-related MoUs worth ₹23,000 crore were signed in these focus sectors.


The Gujarat Innovation Society (GIS) was established in April 2011. It has received great support from all across the society including MNC, Corporate, Institutions, Individuals and Government of Gujarat and Government of India.Vibrant Gujarat is a start-up summit organised every year in Gujarat to showcase local start-ups and innovators that offer technology solutions to problems specific to India. The vibrant Gujarat start-up and technology summit will be held in October 2018, which is expected to witness participation of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, about 400-500 national and international delegates, 2,500 participants, more than 600 exhibitors, and a footfall of 40K from across the world.


The Maharashtra State Innovation Society, with Foundation for Innovation

  • Social Enterprise (FISE) as its primary strategic partner organised the Maharashtra start-up week from June 25 to 29, 2018 in an effort to encourage, engage and enable the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Maharashtra Start-up week provided start-ups with a platform to showcase their innovative solutions to the Government of Maharashtra.


Due to the efforts of Karnataka the state’s capital Bengaluru was ranked 65th among the top clusters in the world in GII rankings. The state is also developing other cities like Mysore, and Hubli as innovation hubs to sustain growth and to encourage innovation.

Various other state governments are also focusing on using innovation as a tool to drive development.

India is slowly emerging as one of the promising economies in the world. China, a competitor for India in many fronts, has surged ahead of India in innovation rankings by retaining

Indian Universities with Innovation Cells

The Indian Universities and other educational institutions are slowly but surely raising up to the occasion 17th spot in GII rakings. China has transformed ideas into business beyond the borders.

Indian engineers have been playing a major role in countries such as Germany and other parts of the globe in cutting-edge technology. Bringing them back and absorbing them for R&D would go a long way. There is a perceptible change, how fast India catches up with the rest. Only time will tell.

and trying to put more emphasis on innovation. Many of them have set up separate innovation cells to promote research projects and to stimulate students to take the path of innovation. The list of some of the Indian Universities with separate innovations cells include:

  • JNTU ,Hyderabad
  • Berhampur University , Berhampur city
  • Bundelkhand University ,Jhansi
  • OP Jindal University, Sonipat
  • Swarnim Startup & Innovation University (SSIU) , Gandhinagar district
  • Anna University Chennai
  • Ashoka University Sonipat
  • NIIT University Hyderabad
  • University of Delhi, Delhi
  • SRM University, Hyderabad 
  • FLAME University ,Pune
  • Dayananda Sagar University, Bengaluru 
  • UIET Panjab University, Ludhiana
  • Marwadi University, Rajkot
  • Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal
  • Karnatak University, Dharwad

The Indian market is flooded with Chinese smart phones; ironically the competitors for the Chinese makers are not Indian companies, but MNCs including Samsung, Motorola, and Apple. The foreign competitors are looking at India as a large growth market and Indian companies are finding it difficult to source complete technologies from others. In such a situation, innovation becomes inevitable for Indian companies.

India can take a cue from South Korea on how to turn the county into innovation-driven economy. Until the 1960s, South Korea’s economy was based on subsistence agriculture. It was a developing country with poor resources and production bases and had only two science and technology institutes. But within the next few decades, Korea invested heavily in machinery, turnkey projects, human resources and R&D institutes and went on to become a high-income advanced economy.

The policymakers in India should focus on finding ways to fix the gaps in driving innovation. India needs to take a page out of China’s innovation book if it aspires to achieve better results in innovation. It can start with developing an appropriate institutional framework that will facilitate the growth of next-generation industries and companies. India needs to increase its R&D spend to 2.4% of GDP by 2034, and focus on innovation-driven solutions to attain the desired growth targets.

The challenges that India’s innovation ecosystem faces includes fragmented policy and implementation, inadequate funding of R&D, long periods of funding, few angel, venture and seed funding deals, lack of proper linkages between stake holders, non-conducive education system, poor infrastructure in hinterland, risk aversion, and inadequate protection of intellectual property rights.

The Indian education system and the industry is, at the moment, in a transition. Educational institutions across the country are shedding the age-old methodologies and opting to churn out leaders with interactive ways of learning and teaching and the emergence of start-ups across verticals are creating their own products that are causing a disruption. India is betting on emerging technologies like blockchain which is a positive sign.

Innovation in India has been stymied due to the culture of jugaad. Using primitive tools to make things work. There have been several examples such as the roadside car mechanic uses different tools and parts and gets the motor working or of a person in Punjab whipping up lassi in a washing machine and an enterprising barber making use of a vaccum cleaner to clear chopped hair from the head and neck of a customer after a haircut.

Creation of mechanised, long-term standard solutions for problems that can be mass produced and entering into collaborations, getting investors and standardising is something industry needs to look at.

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