entrepreneurship frugal engineering India innovation jugaad Muruganantham tedx

Redefining Entrepreneurship – the jugaad way

Call it ingenuity, call it frugal engineering, call it toilet paper entrepreneur or call it Jugaad – entrepreneurship is being redefined in India. A lot of this is actually happening away from the urban areas. While innovations of large companies like Tata and Godrej’s Chotu Kool have been extensively covered by media, the less known entrepreneurs are equally interesting.

I met one such entrepreneur 10 days ago at TEDx Chennai. It so happened that he was not one of the speakers. The TEDx team had identified a few entrepreneurs who were showcasing their venture and products during the umpteen breaks. It was at one of these stalls that I saw this assuming guy sitting with his laptop. Not too many people were approaching him because he did not have an fancy product on the table – but he had an inspiring story to share. I, along with my brother and a friend were humbled by his modesty and his approach to life.

His name is Muruganantham. He is a school dropout, but has installed an innovative small-scale model to manufacture sanitary napkins that enables rural women to lead a hygienic lifestyle and has encouraged rural women to turn entrepreneurs. Till date he has installed 250 such machines installed across 18 states.  This has lead to creation of 250 women entrepreneurs and has generated employment of around 2000 people.

Muruganantham’s machine converts the elaborate process of manufacturing sanitary napkins into a Gandhian operation. The tools used in this model are as much “machines” as the charkha, the pestle or the grindstone. It operates on simple tasks that can be mastered within 1 day, and he himself trains these women entrepreneurs. Through his innovation he has been able to addresses the issue of sanitary napkins being unaffordable and/or unavailable to around 97% of Indian women.

It took him 4 years of research to create this jugaad machine at a cost of Rs.75,000 (while large machines of similar kind cost Rs.35 million), but  he did not think of creating a “for-profit” enterprise – “money is a by product” as he told us. He shared his experience of speaking at TiECon in Mumbai where he asked the elite audience – “When a school dropout from a small place in Coimbatore can think of making his innovation useful to society, why don’t you educated people think on these lines?“. Muruganantham is truly an inspiring individual.

There are many others like Muruganantham who have created innovative products or services such as:

There will be many such more examples and I would love to hear from you if you have come across any.

A lot of these innovations are also curbing the rural to urban migration which has been rapidly rising. By creating entrepreneurs, by training and by generating employment these entrepreneurs are creating a more inclusive India. Of course jugaad alone cannot be enough as some have pointed out, but this is the start of a positive change in redefining entrepreneurship in India.

7 replies on “Redefining Entrepreneurship – the jugaad way”

Very intriguing – Entrepreneurship is definitely going to change the face of India. Not only does self employment give people the freedom to develop independent ideas into business opportunities, but they also contribute a lot more to society (esp like that of India) than most major corporate forces to reckon with do. One such major movement is SHIKSHANTAR Udaipur – do check out their website on parallel education if you get a chance.

Well its certainly a very interesting article , and there are so many such entrepreneurs like this the spot-light hasn't been focused on ,If only these people are given a platform to develop their skills.

That focus should be on such entrepreneurs and forget the world , this country would be a better place to live in .

@somya – I agree that entrepreneurship is going to change the face of India – we can see it happening. Thanks for pointing me to SHIKSHANTAR – shall check it out.

@Pravin – thanks for that. Maybe together we can search for the forgotten gang 🙂

@avinash – a platform is important but most of the ones I mentioned have had tremendous impact even without a formal platform. I think its more about the inert want to do good for people around you (in the process make some money for yourself)

thanks for writing this one Vikas…Its good to know that there are more & more qualified (not degree wise necessarily) people out there concerned about the poorest of poor in this fashion…more such stories should be told…India is currently at a low base hence any entrepreneur with a good idea & skill-set can succeed with sufficient effort…and what better way than for entrepreneurs to start a business that empowers the poor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *