Is your glass half empty or half full?

GlassIt’s easy to think everything is doom and gloom when the British economy is staggering to get itself back on its feet and the appearance of cold, overcast skies adds to our general sense of foreboding as the evenings start to draw in and it’s dark by 4.30pm!

But instead of worrying about sales and marketing and whether we’re going to make our end of year figures before it’s time to pack up for the Christmas break, there’s a bunch of entrepreneurs out there that are constantly looking for success in the face of adversity.

I was struck by how successful this thinking is when listening to the presentation of my friend and colleague Professor Jaideep Prabhu of Judge Business School, Cambridge University which he gave on the subject of marketing innovation at the recent India Summit 2013 in London.

Jaideep has undertaken research into how successful entrepreneurs have created improvised solutions born from ingenuity and smart thinking which he and his co-researchers describe as jugaad innovation.

Jugaad innovators find opportunity in adversity in three ways: reframing challenges as opportunities for growth; making constraints work for them and constantly adapting to a changing environment by improvising solutions to challenges they face along the way,” he explains.

In countries like India, jugaad innovation thrives. Part of the reason is that consumers are starting to reward simplicity. They want a direct connection and streamlined design.

According to Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kantor, “Find unnecessary complexity in your organisation: is it in your product offerings, your processes, your services, or all of the above? Do you offer too many product variations? Or do you have costly functions that need to be better integrated? Find ways to cut the clutter in your business. Serve your customers how they want to be served – simply,” she says.

It appears that being frugal is now in vogue and not just in the developing world where marketers don’t have the kind of resources available in the West as jugaad thinking is catching on here too, much to the surprise of Jaideep.

“Their ability to reframe means they’re likely to see the glass half full even when everyone else sees it as half empty. Indeed, one may think of jugaad innovators as modern-day alchemists who mentally transform adversity into opportunity,” claims Jaideep who spoke passionately about the vision of one man who literally turned the lack of reliable electricity for millions of villagers in India into a massive commercial opportunity.

MansukhIt’s unlikely you’ve heard of Mansukh Prajapati who comes from Rajkot, the fourth largest city in the state of Gujarat, India.

But Mansukh is exactly the new wave of entrepreneur that encapsulates jugaad thinking and you may have more in common with him than you may think.

During the devastating 2001 earthquake in Gujarat that killed 20,000 people and left 600,000 homeless, all the earthenware pots that were essential for everyday life were broken.

Mansukh’s family had previously been managing a struggling business making pottery but his father had given up the business because it wasn’t making enough money and sent the young Mansukh to school in the hope he would get good academics and create a better life for himself.

Sadly, Mansukh failed to achieve his potential at school when he failed his exams at tenth grade and he returned to the family business.

In the wake of the earthquake and the havoc it caused to the lives of thousands of people, Mansukh noticed that villagers were struggling to keep foods cool in searing temperatures as most couldn’t afford a fridge and even if they could, they were plagued with power cuts.

It was this challenge that was turned into an opportunity for the pottery business.

MittiCool-Refrigerator2Given the cooling properties of clay, Mansukh invented a fridge that didn’t require electricity and would keep food fresh too.

With this basic parameter in mind, he came up with the idea for the Mitticool.

It works on the principle of evaporation. Water from upper chambers drips down the side and gets evaporated, taking heat from inside and leaving the chambers cool. The top upper chamber is used to store water and a small faucet tap provides cool drinking water. The first shelf can be used for storing vegetables and fruits and the second shelf can be used for storing milk and yoghurt for up to 2-3 days.

Sales for the family business, now renamed Mitticool Clay Creation, have gone through the roof, with 5,000 fridges, 1,000 clay tawas and 500 clay cooking pots sold since the launch of these products a couple of years’ ago.

Mitticool has been featured on Discovery Channel, units are now being exported to Africa as well as the UK and Mansukh is now hailed by the National Innovation Foundation as the next generation of global jugaad entrepreneurs, much to the delight of his family!

Ardi Kolah is author of The Art of Influencing and Selling, published by Kogan Page. Click here to order your copy and get 30% discount (£13.99 instead of £19.99)

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