Resourceful EntrepreneursThe contrast between Western and Indian approaches to entrepreneurship is striking. Western organizations spend lots of money on R&D, while Indian entrepreneurs specialize in creating something from extremely limited resources.

“Jugaad” is the Hindi word for finding cheap solutions in a smart way. Indian entrepreneurs are frugal and have a knack for making the most of limited resources.

Their thinking is creative, and they are willing to consider nontraditional solutions. These resourceful entrepreneurs also tend to introduce people into the formal economy who could not previously access it.

In developed countries, customers will pay $3,000 for a fridge that talks to them, while a poor Indian can purchase a fridge for $30. This clay fridge uses the evaporation of water to keep produce fresh without electricity.

India’s method of innovation is worth considering for Western organizations that are trying to improve conditions in developing countries. Instead of pouring money into a structured innovation process, companies could attempt to formulate solutions based on the resources and materials available in a region.

The Raspberry Pi, an ultra-low-cost-computing device, is an example of a Western idea that has adopted the principles of resourceful entrepreneurs. The Raspberry Pi was created to address the lack of college computer science applicants who had experience tinkering with computers.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a computer user had to learn some programming to be able to interact with a computer, but modern computers can be used without any understanding of how computers work. Raspberry Pi was meant to allow kids to experiment with technology to gain a valuable understanding of its functioning. The low price was made possible by an open-source method of designing the device, so anyone could analyze the device and contribute to its improvement online.

The Raspberry Pi is an exposed board computer, so users can literally see how the device works. Users must connect a mouse, keyboard and monitor to the device and load their own applications in order to use a word processor or browse the Internet.

The VS-Pi program has used the Raspberry Pi technology to increase access to educational materials in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. The fully assembled computer costs only $65 and comes with personalized educational materials in the local language and with relevant content.

The devices have content targeted to a specific community related to education, health, agriculture and finance. The system does not require Internet access and uses little electricity.

The Raspberry Pi’s successful use of cheap materials, creative design methods and expansion of economic opportunities illustrates the value of the methods of resourceful entrepreneurs. Especially in regions with limited access to resources, simple solutions that are “good enough” have the most impact.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr