Navi Radjou Transcript

Navi Radjou grew up in a small town in southern India called Pondicherry. Pondicherry is a former French colony, and that was a blessing in disguise for Mr Radjou. He grew accustomed to the French education system, which led him to Paris for his studies. He traveled in numerous places around the world occupied as a Freelance consultant until moving to the USA.

He was hired by Forrester Research in 1999, embarking on a mission to comprehend the meaning of innovation for the western communities. After the recession of 2008, he noticed that innovation has a different essence in developing countries than in the West.

The entrepreneurs and companies of the emerging markets act based on a scarcity mentality due to the shortage of resources. In Mr. Radjou’s words, “They are able to do more with less”. This phrase became something like a mantra for him and led him to write his books. His most famous and best-selling book is ‘Jugaad Innovation: Being frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth’.

Mr. Radjou is also a Fellow at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Furthermore, he is ranked by Thinkers50 as one of the 50 most influential management thinkers in the world. His stated purpose is to symbolize the bridge between the East and West, which led him to co-write his third book about Modern Leadership. The influence of his Indian heritage is distinctive throughout the latter book.

The accurate interpretation of Innovation

After living 35 years in the USA, Mr. Radjou moved to France last year. His goal is to connect with local entrepreneurs and innovators to inspire him for a potential new book. This book may align with the corporate world’s current practices, called open innovation or customer-driven innovation. For these practices, the companies collaborate with consumers to derive products that add additive value to the market.

The era of customer-driven innovation begins to shift to new paradigms, though. Global struggles, such as climate change and drought, have made consumers adopt ecological habits and enhance social awareness. Today, there are several concerns about the Labor legislation in China and India, which is a by-product of corporate greed.

Therefore, the Business Industry must comply with the new Environmental laws and provide the public with sustainable and socially impactful products. There is one predominant example in the USA that is pioneer in this matter, the Carpet Company Interface.

Interface’s founder and CEO, Ray Anderson, envisioned his company to become the most sustainable company by 2020. His goal was to reduce emissions significantly, and in 2019 they managed to provide carbon-neutral products to the public. The fascinating thing about this company is that they did not rest on their laurels and kept innovating in their quest for a more sustainable economy and world.

The Interface’s work is a part of the Regeneration process. Regeneration is the innovative concept that puts forth all the noble efforts that positively impact society and the planet. The obsolete practices of the past have created corporate greed, which feasts on wounded communities and devours the reducing natural resources.

The next step for Interface was to set in motion an initiative named Climate take back. This initiative was launched to facilitate the generation of solely carbon-negative products by 2030. Carbon-negative products are the ones that absorb more carbon substances in their production than they emit. The introduction of carbon-negative products to the markets will be the upcoming Green Industrial Revolution milestone.

Moreover, Climate take back includes goals such as clean energy and drinkable water generation and their distribution without charge to the local communities. Interface is a pioneering company in the quest to face the adverse effects of Climate Change and perfectly embodies the Generation’s spirit.

The hopeful sign is that the younger generations, or Gen Z, are more sensitive to social issues and environmental matters. They yearn for the abolition of the prevalent status quo of greed and vanity and establishing a corporate world that contributes environmentally safe and high-value products to the societies. The challenge for the companies is to follow this route and attract and retain the most gifted individuals.

The Jugaad Innovation-The first two principles

The principles of Jugaad Innovation display a predominant role in Mr. Radjou’s book with the same title. ‘Jugaad’ is a Hindi word translated as ‘improvised fix’. Mr Radjou points out Jugaad Innovation’s meaning with the following phrase: “To be clever and ingenious in solving problems with limited means”.

Mr. Radjou coined this term as inspiration from the lead character in the TV series ‘MacGyver’. He states that MacGyver as a character embodies unparalleled resilience and creativity in the face of adversity. The two latter attributes entail the first principle of Jugaad, while the other is frugality. Frugality entails all the actions that derive the maximum potential of the current resources.

The aspects of Jugaad are predominant characteristics of all the emerging markets. The main reason behind this approach to the emerging markets is the scarcity of resources and the need to optimize their utilization perfectly. This approach is the ideal description of an economic system: Dealing with the absence of resources and maximizing the usage of the available resources.

Mr. Radjou believes that people exude their best performances in the face of a challenge. He backs this statement with the example of the French car company Renault. In 1999, the company’s CEO challenged the company’s engineering department to design a car with a final cost of around $5000. The average price of the newly launched car at the time was approximately $15000.

The concept of designing this frugal car unleashed concealed ingenuity and creativity levels that had been slumbering in these times of comfort. Ultimately, they designed a vehicle named Logan worth $5000. The engineering department had some constraints in their mission to design that car, but by thinking and acting flexibly, they overcame them. Thinking and acting flexibly is the third principle of Jugaad Innovation.


This episode is sponsored by SAP Concur.

As a new cohort of workers enters the hybrid workforce, they wield immense power in shaping the next era of work during a time of ongoing change. SAP Concur solutions help companies reinvent travel, expense, and invoice management by simplifying everyday processes and creating better experiences across organizations. Learn more about SAP Concur travel, expense, and invoice solutions at


The third principle of Jugaad Innovation

Mr. Radjou brings forth two examples of instant flexibility in the highly regulated market of the Health Sector. During the recent pandemic, several companies that manufacture medical supplies and devices in Ohio combined their forces to meet the hospitals’ exceeding demands. They adopted a rational approach to facilitate the heroic efforts of the doctors without having the profits as their sole aim.

The other example comes from Italy, where there was a shortage of ventilators during the cruel period of the pandemic. A doctor had the brilliant idea of using snorkeling masks in ventilating machines. The breakthrough of 3D printing would allow them to adapt to the ventilators perfectly.

An innovative company from China does not wait for adverse situations to arise, though. The company’s name is Hire, and it is divided into 4000 microenterprises. Each microenterprise has its autonomy and resources to cover its local market’s needs. Upon a customer’s specific request, all the units are mobilized to launch a new product or service within the time span of six weeks.

Keep it simple: The fourth principle of Jugaad Innovation

Mr. Radjou has an appealing definition regarding simplicity, which is the following: “The art of hiding the complexity while maintaining the richness”. By keeping it simple, the companies add only specific necessary attributes to a product. By reducing the complexity of the product, they align with the customer’s needs and, in the case of the Car Industry, they facilitate the reduction of the emissions.

Include the margin: The fifth principle of Jugaad Innovation

Mr. Radjou delivers some contradictory statistics regarding the financial sector and the financial situation of the households in the USA. In 2020, 160 million Americans were struggling financially, while in 2019, 60 % of the people did not have $500 in their savings account to deal with an emergency.

The financial sector is undoubtedly one of the most lucrative throughout the US economy. But, the Americans struggle more financially as time progresses. Mr. Radjou believes that the financial system should include all the excluded members of society to enhance their way of living. Furthermore, the benefits for the bank system shall be tremendous, as the savings outside of the system are apparently with 6-digit figures.

In wrapping up: Follow your heart, the sixth principle of Jugaad Innovation

It is believed that the heart is the secret of intuition. Mr. Radjou states that if someone relies only on data, his innovative approaches are doomed to fail. Steve Jobs is a predominant example, as a trip to India apparently had changed his decision-making approach. Mr. Jobs started to make decisions mainly based on his intuition rather than the cold data-driven approach. Based on his autobiography, the idea of launching the Apple Stores was primarily based on his own will and against the advice of his marketing team.

Conclusively, there is no leadership without having the courage to follow your heart in some decisions. Undoubtedly, data exhibit patterns and derive reliable conclusions, but the customers are humans. Humans connect with humans mainly on an emotional level.

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This episode is sponsored by SAP Concur.

As a new cohort of workers enters the hybrid workforce, they wield immense power in shaping the next era of work during a time of ongoing change. SAP Concur solutions help companies reinvent travel, expense, and invoice management by simplifying everyday processes and creating better experiences across organizations. Learn more about SAP Concur travel, expense, and invoice solutions at