Thursday, 5 March 2009

The "jugaad" of Indians

There are a number of descriptions of India – hub of outsourcing, the land of the mystic, ancient culture and civilization etc. Depending on the seeker and the descriptor, the portrayal changes from one view to the next. However, to date I have not come across a single phrase or word that describes the contemporary Indian; the individual whose existence creates this country. For a long time I had been searching for this identity, till it suddenly dawned on me that the ideal description for all Indians is the simple Hindi word of “jugaad”. Loosely this can be translated into English as an “uncoordinated temporary solution”.

From the farmer living a hand to mouth existence to the vegetable vendor in Mumbai, the poor are all doing a jugaad for their next meal. The meagre salary earning drivers and domestic help are occupied with the jugaad of sending their children to school. Whether this translates into a loan from their employers or into multiple jobs a day, very few solutions are sustainable. The middle class is constantly engaged in the jugaad of earning more money and buying that new car or flat. Then even if it means approaching a bank for an unaffordable EMI loan or a stock market broker for a lottery winning stock tip, it’s all to take the shortest route to the top. Finally it’s the rich. They are constantly in search of the next jugaad to save on the upcoming tax liability.

At some point I think that corporate India is no different. Every company is doing some jugaad or the other – finding loopholes in policies, saving taxes, understaffing to curtail costs or finding a link in the old boys’ network to get away with non compliance of laws. The crown prince of all jugaad in India is the nation’s political system, with every politician (and political party) doing everything s/he can to win the next election; even if it means representing a different party (or alliance) in every consecutive election. Jugaad seems to have broken all barriers of religion, cast and creed to become an all pervasive identity.

The presence of jugaad, however, by no means indicates lack of enthusiasm or energy to work. In fact ask any Indian if something can be done and most often the reply is yes. The problem is that while the yes is said first, the how, which will implement the yes is not thought of until much later. In the absence of having thought through this how, the path leading to the solution becomes clumsy and messy, causing more accidents than needed.

Able thought leadership can very effectively and efficiently rid us of this identity, which while making us hard working also makes us less productive. According to Sanjeev Sanyal, the author of “the Indian Renaissance”, it is the decline in intellectual guidance and tactics that led to the decline of India in 1800s, much before the colonial rule took root. But history has proven that this thought leadership has not eroded from the country – Gandhi gave birth to one and India gained independence, Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh devised another and India started on the path to economic prosperity. Maybe it is time now for a new thought leadership to emerge to re-establish the lost glory of the Golden Eagle.

For this to emerge it is the educated youth, the professional with some financial backing who will need to take the lead. Can we do it? Yes! How? Let’s think about it today.


Anonymous said...

Very nice..!! So what are your thoughts??

Anonymous said...

It makes us less productive and sometime we loose our confidence bcos its always this JUGAAD that tends us to take wrong (corrupt) path! I believe that Ancient Wisdom combined with Modern Science can be a good option to bring uniformity in today's society. Mobilizing resources to control rural to urban migration which can create reverse impact of rural wisdom getting embedded into urban lifestyle. You really write so much and so well! Good luck TANU'SHREE !

Anonymous said...

As I was talking about ancient wisdom because its the one which is well embedded in our blood, culture and traditions. It is wonderful which has kept us closely knitted to each other. And thus combining with Modern Science and Technology would bring a hugh impact on today's society! We need a new culture but I am sorry to say that today's 'mix of culture' has got more western flavor & influence affecting us badly. We need a lot of correction and this can happen if India's Innovators bring a complete Indian flavor into today's working environment. I don't mind Dhoti wearing IT guy. Its our pride.

Tanushree Bagrodia said...

Dear Anonymous 1,

I think, what is required is a change in attitude and I see a lot of it beginning to happen in India. It is quite encouraging and to see this firsthand. However, in my view, there are 3 things that we need to focus on to expedite the process
(i) understand our responsibilities before we start demanding our rights
(ii) realise that each one of us makes a difference and practice before we preach
and (iii) instead of taking the easy road every time we need to have a long term view and maybe prepare to struggle in the short haul

While my views might seem abstract at first, they are quite basic. So let me explain. For example:
(i) if we want civil rights then lets understand our responsibility to vote
(ii) if we want to have better corporate governance then let us put that into practice into each of our organisations
and (iii) if we really want to be a global power then lets clean up our system and start intelligence and meritocracy rather than connection and bureaucracy

None of this can be achieved overnight and nothing can be done solely by one person. But as the youth of the nation and the future of the country we need to start bringing in this change. It could be by spreading awareness amongst peers and forming think tanks where needed. All it will take is a few like minded people to come together and drive toward the same goal.