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The Real Meaning Of Jugaad
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In early 2009, I was invited by Manish Gada (name changed for ethical reasons), MD of a Fortune 500 MNC Medical Devices Company to deliver an inspirational talk at the annual leadership gathering, in the Leela Ambience Hotel, Gurgaon. Just before my talk was the Vision 20:20 presentation by Manish. Throughout his talk, he kept emphasizing on the target of $5 billion by 2020 and kept using the word jugaad in every second sentence. I made my notes during the talk since I was also appointed by Manish as his personal coach, since he had just joined a MNC organisation after working for over 15 years in a public sector healthcare organisation.
We had a short break before I delivered the talk on how people should find the hero within and purpose in what they do, while working in the healthcare sector. True to my habit of understanding the pulse of the people and culture of the organisation, I mingled with the folks (the gathering had over 300 of the leadership team, senior and middle management of this organisation) to gain wisdom from their experience of the talk by Manish and the reality of the business.
During my conversations, I learnt that the people were confused and had no ownership in the Vision 20:20 strategies presented by Manish and found it to be more tactical and not strategic. I also learned that people found the messaging very duplicitous, where on one hand, they were asked to be ethical and on the other, they were being asked to indulge in jugaad and do whatever it takes by hiring agencies to fix tenders and stifle the competition. (While I like the original meaning of the word 'jugaad' meaning grassroots innovation and resourcefulness and was the name given to a vehicle made by farmers from assembling body parts of different vehicle, I do not endorse the alternative meaning, which means fix it by hook or crook.)
Now that I had a pulse of the reality, I was better equipped to guide Manish and his team in the right direction. During dinner, I requested Manish to close the evening by thanking everyone and telling them that his vision 20:20 were only his thoughts on the way forward and that a holistic strategy and execution plan would soon be made in consultation with all the leaders who were present. After dinner, I asked Manish if he had earlier consulted people before planning his strategy. Manish said he had consulted the nine members of his leadership team and together they had put together the Vision 20:20 strategies. I then asked him what his feeling was about the ownership of this strategy. Manish said that people were finding it like Mission Impossible and hence there was a need to inspire and motivate them. I then asked Manish whether he found the strategy truly strategic or purely tactical, since most of the actions were about stifling the biggest competition and not about making a distinctive contribution as an organisation. I said to Manish that I had some insights while speaking with different leaders of the organisation.
I also told Manish to be careful as the understanding of his messaging was to do whatever it takes to achieve the target of $5 billion, which may have been construed as doing things which were unethical like fixing tenders and thus compromising the values of the organisation that took pride in being a highly ethical organisation. If people in the US also misconstrued and misunderstood the messaging by Manish, even his job could be very shaky. Manish who had worked in the protective cocoon of a PSU earlier was suddenly shaken and how else should he say it since he needed to deliver the results while working in India, where the climate of the country is corrupt. I told Manish not to worry and that we may have a cutting edge plan.
A week later we floated a questionnaire asking people to come up with ideas on how they could increase market share by doing everything ethical and how could we also play in markets which were yet untapped and not even reached out to by any competitor. We got several ideas from the 300 leaders, who were very enthusiastic to offer their ideas and suggestions. A common idea that emerged from many was the introduction of a low cost medical device for people living the rural and remotest areas of India. There was a huge need for a low cost Syringe in India as most people got injections from reused syringes since the rural medical practitioners (RMP) could not afford new syringes. The mortality rate due to this practice of reused syringes was every high as people developed HIV, Hepatitis and other diseases due to this unethical practice.
We then articulated and developed a strategy to check if we could introduce a low cost syringe , which could also not be reused. Such tech was available and we could develop the product. We made the plan and then leaders across sectors shared the plan with their teams to validate this with every leader in the organisation. In the span of a month, all 2,500 people working in the organisation were energised and contributed their ideas to create a product which would truly help people while also helping the business to grow. Sales people even share the plans with their distributors and the distributors were also enthused since this may be the game changer for the industry and really lead to more business growth while ensuring more health safety for people living in the remotest parts of India.
Now that we had high energy with the ownership of the product and strategy, we began working on the product development. The team came up with the idea of importing this from their plant in Singapore and the cost of the syringe was fixed around Rs 7. As a consultant, I was always poking holes in the plan as we need to get this right. I said to the folks, if we have a syringe that costs Rs 7, then we do not have a market since most people in rural India are very poor and pay Rs 10 to the RMP for consultation, medicines and the injection. I was told by some that we could encourage the RMPs to increase their price and I pushed back by saying that if we did that, we would lose the battle even before it began since RMPs may find it difficult to increase the price with the people who could not afford it.
We studied the model and realised that the big cost was due to our importing the product. I then encouraged them to think about creating a manufacturing facility in India, since the government was giving a lot of support to do this. The leaders in India said to me that this was decision beyond them, as this could only be done in the US. I said to them that they should speak with the leaders in the US. They began the dialogue and the leaders in the US loved the idea and invited all of us to their US headquarters to discuss the plan and strategy. To cut a long story short, we went to the US and I presented to the nucleus team in the US and within two days we had a decision to create and set up a plant in India.
Today the plant is ready, the product has been rolled out and costs people just Rs 1.40. Everyone in the organisation is very engaged and owns the strategy. The competitor has been left far behind and is not even looking at entering this virgin territory to provide low cost reuse prevention syringes. The business which was at a little under $1 billion has grown to over $2.2 billion and they are now confident of achieving the $5 billion by 2020. Everyone in the organisation, including the distributors and trade teams, were coached to execute the strategy and focus towards the goal. The game changing strategy not only has helped the business to do well but has also helped the organisation to do good.
My takeaway as a consultant and leadership coach is hugely gratifying since this small intervention has create a greater humane business strategy model which shall benefit humanity and Indians who are underserved and unserved to get medical treatment and injections without any fear or risk to health. This shall also reduce the health burden for the country and promote patient advocacy where people are being trained by the doctors, RMPs and the trade to ask for a new syringe. That’s empowerment and that my friend is the gratification of consulting and coaching to not only create a game changing strategy but also supporting each and every leader to execute it.
The writer is a motivational speaker and is the author of Karma Kurry book series (Jaico)