SEBA Professor's Interest in India's Practice of "Jugaad" Leads to Fulbright Award

"Jugaad," a grassroots South Asian term for overcoming barriers through the combination of innovation and perspiration, has gained a foothold in the business world, and it is the foundation for a prestigious Fulbright award from the U.S. State Department to Saint Mary's Assistant Professor Jyoti Bachani.

A faculty member in the Graduate Business Program of the School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA), Bachani will travel to India, possibly in the late fall, to study how the practice of jugaad has contributed to the rise of India as a global economic power.

Originally used to describe a vehicle thrown together from whatever is at hand, jugaad is a Hindi word that has been translated into English as "frugal innovation" or "creative improvisation," Bachani said. "The word also can mean breaking and bending rules to get a job done."

She noted that a cover story in the Economist last year declared India and China to be "the new masters of management" and added: "It goes on to describe the Indian national tradition called 'jugaad,' where ordinary Indians solve seemingly insoluble problems by making do with whatever they have and never giving up." Other business news outlets have reported on the practice as well, referring to jugaad in business terminology as "constraint-based innovation" or simply "frugal engineering."

Bachani will use the fellowship to create classroom case studies based on her research so that future leaders and managers can explore the Indian management approach in depth.

"This award underscores Dr. Bachani's ingenuity in connecting academic research with real world business practices and contemporary cultural concerns," said Provost Beth Dobkin. "Her Fulbright recognition reflects the global business perspective of the School of Economics and Business Administration."

The Fulbright Scholar Program sends 800 U.S. faculty members and professionals abroad each year. News of Bachani's award was greeted with enthusiasm by SEBA Dean Zhan Li. "The selection process for Fulbright Scholarships is highly competitive. We are very proud of Professor Jyoti Bachani's accomplishment," said Dean Li. "Her prestigious academic award exemplifies the high-quality faculty we have at the School of Economics and Business Administration."

Although the final details on her host institution are still being worked out, the SEBA assistant professor said she is likely to be based at a university on the outskirts of Mumbai, India's commercial capital, and will conduct research in Pune and New Delhi. "This wonderful award will allow me to travel in India for nine months during the next academic year in order to do field research," said Bachani.

Ironically, while Western business leaders and academics are fascinated with the practice of jugaad and want to learn about and possibly emulate it, there's a "grass is greener on the other side" attitude in India, Bachani said. "What I've seen so far is that many Indian business leaders are looking beyond jugaad to emulate the business practices of their Western counterparts in order to lead to consistent product quality and market expansion."

Michael McAlpin
College Communication