Jugaad and growing up with constraints


One of the observations that I made during my stay in Silicon Valley was the absence of Jugaad. Jugaad is a relative term, fellow entrepreneurs in US work hard and do well with bootstrapping just like we do. But the reason I say absence of Jugaad is because the magnitude of Jugaad I have grown up with in India is far higher.

From what I saw people in US follow the protocol (be it business, a line at the bus stand or crossing the railway tracks), they pour a lot of effort in small things. This shows when they are designing a product, launching their ventures or even when setting up their homes. We like to push out things in a hurry, not listen to any wisdom that increases the workload and look for safety hooks. It seems as if we are hard wired differently.

The more I think about it, it is so much cultural. Me and a few more of my entrepreneur roommates (during incubation in Silicon Valley) grew up back in India with little or no luxury. Almost all of us started working In our teens and while today we choose to do a startup and talk of passion, let’s be honest – all of us started working for we needed to either support our families, education or at least not be a liability on them.

I remember a couple of us talking about how Friday evening brings such cheer on the streets of Mountain View. People out in big numbers, long lines outside Ice-cream shop on Castro Street (oh and you can’t imagine the clubs) and hardly anyone works over the weekend (even the startup junta). My roomie was mildly upset that he doesn’t think of his existence in India in the same way. Neither of us would really think of going to a club back in India and can hardly think of life from an angle which would say ‘how can this be more fun?’. That’s when it occurred to me that so many of us back in India have only worried about survival. Survival = Luxury here.

Even after being educated basic existence here is tough. Some of it is cultural, some of it is reality of being in a developing country. You need to own your own house ASAP is cultural, I can see people happily living in rented apartments in US. You need to work hard to meet ends, do a lot of unnecessary expenses to meet societal pressures and then again work very hard to save money, such is the cultural and financial economics of being in India.

In some sense this isn’t always a distinction I am drawing between India and US, this difference exists within India too. If you are in India and reading this, you may not understand about this struggle as well if you never had to worry about how your school / college fees would be paid next month. The absence of Jugaad is a real difference in how people think and behave. Be it within India or India vs US. I believe this has a lot to do with ones growing up with or without constraint.

Now, before you get me wrong, Jugaad isn’t always good to have or I don’t mean to imply that lack of Jugaad is better. Too much Jugaad can make one think short term and complete lack of Jugaad may take away some opportunities to move fast or make things happen in an environment where resources are scarce (which is often what startups are like).

So as each one of us have different levels of Jugaad within ourselves, it may help to understand your strengths vs weakness in this respect!

Thanks to Abhishek Mittal, Sandeep Laxman, Himanshu & Maneka for feedback.

PS: of course do consider that what I have seen is only an elite part of US, (the Silicon Valley). This difference in behaviour may exist within US too, but to me this difference occurred heavily when I travelled and lived there for a few months and hence the reference of US vs India.

About the Author:

Annkur Agarwal, co-founder, PriceBaba. He can be reached @annkur

The article was originally posted here.


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