According to professor Navi Radjou, innovation and leadership specialist, when you grow up in a developing country such as India, you instantly learn how to get more value from limited resources and find creative ways to reuse what you already have. Creating more value at less cost and resources; this is the basic principle of frugal innovation.
A common way of innovating in the West is to spend large sums of money on R&D and use many natural resources to create products that are complexer than ever in order to stand out from the competition. People have to pay a lot of money for these complex, innovative products and even more for the “extra features” and upgrades. So, the conventional business model in the West is more for more. Sadly, this more for more model is running out of gas, for three reasons: 1. Because of the financial crisis, a big portion of the Western population can no longer afford these types of products, 2. Our natural resources are coming to an end (water, oil etc.), and 3. (this is most important) there’s a big disconnect between existing products and services and the basic needs of current customers because of the disparity between rich and the middle class.
In developing countries such as Kenya, frugal innovation is developing at a high pace due to the necessity of it. Take for example the infant incubator. Many newborn babies in remote parts of the countries die due to the lack of incubators. These incubators usually are flown in by aid groups and will work no longer than a year or three before they need replacement of parts – which there are none of in these remote areas. A company called Design Than Matters, came up with the idea for a “Car Parts Infant Incubator,” which takes advantage of locally available replacement car parts, familiar automobile design, and globe-spanning automotive supply chains to create a life-altering medical device. The baby warmer sells for 5% of the cost of a traditional incubator, and might save as many as 2.4 million infants per year in the developing world.
This shows that with frugal innovation what matters is that you take what is most abundant, mobile connectivity, to deal with what is scarce, which is energy.