India: Entering Into The Frugal Innovation System - A Step Ahead By India

Last Updated: 18 September 2013
Article by Aayush Sharma

In this modern era Intellectual Property Right (IPR) is gaining a lot of importance in the society of inventors, research oriented industries, multi-national companies (MNC) and small & medium enterprises (SME). It is interesting to note that the status of IPR in the country is now much advanced as compared to previous years. A Continuous effort by the Indian government in stimulating the policies of IPR has resulted in the enhancement of IPR. The Post-TRIPS era has given India a strong legal frame work which is a suitable requirement for technological progress and economical prosperity. It can be seen in the recent years that India has emerged as a focused market for path-breaking innovations. Today, most of the MNCs, research institutions and technology incubators are focusing on driving innovation for global and local markets. Over the past two decades around 750 R&D centers have been established by MNCs in India, employing over 400,000 professionals. This article emphasize on the frugal innovation/ engineering, its current status in India and steps to be taken by the government in the country.

Introduction- Frugal Innovation

What do a USD 35 tablet computer, a USD 800 electrocardiograph (ECG) and a USD 2500 car have in common? Well, they all come from India and are Frugal Innovations!

The term 'Frugal Innovation' has come from the direct English translation of a Hindi word 'Jugaad' which basically stands for an spontaneous arrangement of a product thereby reducing the complexity and cost of production of goods for making affordable and economical and is mainly driven by lack of resources. Frugal Innovation or Frugal Engineering is widely exercised in India and other developing nations. The sweeping revolution for luxurious and unaffordable items provided the driving force to the local people of the developing nations to design and deliver such items that are not only cost effective but also raised the social capital.

Frugally innovated or engineered product does not mean that the product is second-grade. Instead, they are characterized by high affordability, robustness and mainly designed for volume-driven market. Usually the process of Frugal Innovation or Frugal Engineering involves removal of nonessential features of goods in order to sell it in developing countries. It is believed that a successful frugal product is low in cost, good in performance and can be made available at large scale.

Few Examples of Doing More with Less

Frugal inventions are low in cost, high in demand, affordable in nature and made for particular area. Some best examples of frugal innovations include Aakash tablet, Indian government made this innovative product available to the every student of the country at the subsidized rates to access the digital world. Another innovative example comes from the R&D giant General Electric's (GE) Mac 400 which is a portable ECG machine, remarkably reduced to its essential functions and capable of running on batteries. It is particularly designed to make it easier to carry out medical diagnoses in rural areas of the country.

Another example which is admired nationally is a cost effective car launched in 2008 by the Indian conglomerate Tata, Nano, which was advertised as the world's cheapest car @ 2000 USD. The important attributes which made it a successful car for low income grade population were reduction in the usage of steel by substituting it with an aluminum engine, increasing space by moving the wheels to the edge of the chassis and relying on a modular design that enabled the car to be assembled from kits which had proved conclusively that you could do more with less.

These examples are some of the best frugal innovations developed in India and have the capacity to be marketed and sold on a large scale around the world.

Frugally innovated products extensively occur in every sector, one such sector is Biotechnology. Recently, an Indian biotech giant invented Hepatitis B vaccine which is much cheaper than the existing drugs, bringing down the price from $15 per injection to about 10 cents.

What is important, however, is not the individual product, its strengths and weaknesses, but the underlying principle: "the basic need or the purpose for which such products are invented i.e. the core function or core use of a product". In the above examples, the tablet was designed to enable processing documents and giving access to the internet, the ECG to make essential medical diagnoses possible and the car to safely drive people on the congested Indian roads. These frugally innovated products do not have nonessential features. They do not cater any special requests, but they do meet the basic needs of the people who use them.

Steps to be taken by India

A frugal innovation arises for some purpose related to a particular area or region. There has been a recent upward trend in the number of frugal type inventions in India and across the world. The reason for this recent upsurge is the benefit these innovations provide at an affordable cost to the people for whom the actual product was out of reach. It is considered that India is the right place for frugal innovation to take place. With a culture of inventive improvisation, the approach and skillset for frugal innovation are in plenty in India.

The Indian government needs to realize the importance of the frugal innovation in the development of living standard of the people and should take steps for the betterment of these inventors. Firstly, the government should bring policy for R&D sector which should have packages for development of research mechanism in the rural areas of the country. Secondly, government should establish the incubation centre for the research. A pool should be created by these centers wherein all the innovation collectively, held and arranged for a success innovation. Thirdly, government should frame such IPR policies which are flexible and relatively appropriate for frugal inventions. Fourthly, the government should promote the Intellectual Property laws in the remote areas of the country and there should be awareness of such laws among the rural inventors. Lastly, there should be proper channels through which the policies and the packages provided by the government should reach to the people for which the same are introduced around the country.


India is a developing economy full of frugal innovators. India has made remarkable progress and has made its presence felt in the field of intellectual property rights around the world. The rural areas and the SME's are the heart of the Indian economy where a remarkable development has taken place and they are the main taker of the frugal innovations due to its cost effectiveness.

Frugal innovations are all about creating advantages out of limitations. It is not only meant for making things cheaper, but better with more appropriate means and applications. Being a healthy means of innovation, this sector still needs national as well as global recognition. There is a need of proper mechanism for the development of this sector through proper channels wherein the contribution of this sector should be recognized and properly funded through various schemes. The network/ program like Honey bee network should be initiated in order to establish a network wherein proper facilities would be provided to the frugal inventors.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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