COVID 19 has brought about a sea change in the way we live, and if a vaccine is not developed soon, it is likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. It has shown us the extent and magnitude of such a crisis in this globalized era. Even the most advanced countries could not respond quickly enough to control the breakout. While many crises of the past have forced us to mend our ways, nothing in recent history has compelled to us change our manners to this extent. New ways have been discovered to work, communicate, and socialize, which would keep us safe from the spreading virus. One of the important aspects is that COVID 19 has affected all; the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, the powerful, and the underprivileged. This makes us wonder whether it is possible to be prepared for such an eventuality or not. Does technological and economical self-reliance alone help overcome such global crises? While money will always be short, especially for the majority living in developing and underdeveloped countries, can technology be leveraged through frugal innovations to help us fight such a crisis?
The crisis has taught several lessons and most of them were revelations, as they were known to all, but never acknowledged. First and foremost, has been the importance of a robust and well-distributed public health care system. While most of the nations in the world have a public health system, in many cases it has been structured to meet the regular requirements and is not designed to scale up facilities in case of such a crisis. Primary health care does not require high-end medical facilities but basic diagnostic and health support systems. More importantly, these should be able to scale up their operations in large numbers in the shortest possible time. These frugal innovations find relevance in these times.
Frugal innovation is the ability to generate viable solutions for social value while significantly reducing the use of scarce resources. The primary objective of such product innovations is to focus on customized products to meet the requirements. The world witnessed numerous innovations supporting the Healthcare sector during the last few months. There has been an overwhelming response of Governments and Corporates to support the health care system in this fight against COVID19. In a typical example from the days of COVID 19, we could see the scarcity of Ventilators, Testing Kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) all over the world. In case of ventilators, many organizations came up with innovations which were aimed at defining the minimal specification and harnessing the available technology to ramp up its production. Regulatory bodies like MHRA, FDA, ICMR came up with minimum specifications for a stripped down version of ventilators customized for COVID 19 patients. Several global and Indian companies like Tata, Mahindra & Mahindra, Maruti, Ford, General Motors quickly responded to the situation and started scaling up the production of ventilators. Similarly, in the case of PPE, several initiatives have been taken to ensure availability of PPEs in large volumes. IIT Delhi startup ETEX produced a cheap and effective facemask “Kawach” for protection against Covid-19 that costs just Rs. 45. With declining budgets and scarce resources, globally the demand for optimum and reliable products is going to be high. Frugal innovations are going to be the mantra.
Dr. Smitha Girija
Professor of Marketing
Dr. Girija is a Professor of Marketing and the Director at SOIL School of Business Design. Professor Girija’s primary expertise is Marketing and Innovation, and her research areas include Customer engagement, Frugal Innovation and Retail Management. She is currently working on a project under the guidance of Prof Jagdish Sheth, Emory University on Frugal Innovations in India. Dr Girija is also a visiting faculty to ISM, University of Applied Sciences, Dortmund, Germany and delivered courses of Innovation Management. She has also hosted an online module on ‘Marketing and Innovation’ on SWAYAM for two consecutive cycles. She is also a Certified Peer Review Team member for (SAQS) South Asian Quality Standards, Certified by AMDISA (Association of Management Development Schools in South Asia), Hyderabad. Her interest also lies in training programmes at PHDCCI and have conducted workshops for junior and middle level managers of SME's in Customer Relationship Management and Integrated Marketing Communication.