How Indian innovators master the full JUGAAD spectrum

Navi Radjou
2 min readDec 11, 2023

Jugaad is a Hindi word meaning “an ingenious way to solve a problem using limited resources” (watch my TED talk on jugaad)

The talented Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has played three characters who altogether show mastery of what I call the “full JUGAAD spectrum

This jugaad spectrum ranges from no-tech to low-tech to high-tech.
It ranges from frugal tinkering to frugal engineering to frugal science.

In the movie Pad Man, Akshay Kumar plays Laxmikant Chauhan, based on Arunachalam Muruganantham, also known as “India’s Menstrual Man” who brought dignity to millions of women.

When creating his early “prototypes”, Muruganantham — not an engineer by training — used no tech and tinkered a lot before inventing his low-cost sanitary-pad making machine. Watch his TED Talk:

As Muruganantham tweeted: “You don’t need an engineering degree to be an engineer. Those who work to build/create a new thing for the society are all engineers!”

In the movie Mission Raniganj, Akshay Kumar plays the role of Jaswant Singh who used his engineering training from Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad to develop a frugal innovation — a steel capsule about 7 feet high and 22 inch in diameter — that helped rescue 65 trapped miners at the Raniganj Coalfields in 1989.

Jaswant Singh’s low-tech invention is a great example of frugal engineering

In Mission Mangal, Akshay Kumar portrays Rakesh Dhawan, inspired by
Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai, the Indian space scientist at ISRO — Indian Space Research Organization who led Project Mangalyaan, India’s first Mars mission (it entered Mars orbit on September 24, 2014)

Annadurai and his resourceful team used their jugaad mindset mindset to pioneer frugal science : they showed how developing nations like India could undertake ambitious hightech projects like space exploration using 1/10 of NASA’s budget.

Bottom line:

Jugaad is first and foremost a MINDSET that has 3 main qualities: it is FRUGAL, AGILE, and INCLUSIVE

Jugaad is creative resilience — the ingenious ability to turn adversity into opportunity and create value for society

Jugaad can be applied in different contexts and employ different means (ranging from no-tech to low-tech to high-tech)

Through his 3 roles in Pad Man, Mission Raniganj, and Mission Mangal, Akshay Kumar shows why we Indians are masters of the full jugaad spectrum !

I wish that Akshay Kumar plays the role of Mansukh Prajapati, a serial jugaad entrepeneur who invented Mitticool, a jugaad refrigerator made of clay, and created employment for many women in his Gujarat village.

Watch National Geographic Channel — India video on Mansukh Prajapati.

Photos : screen grabs from official YouTube trailers of PadMan, Mission Raniganj, Mission Mangal



Navi Radjou

Indian-French-American Scholar in Frugal Innovation + Wise Leadership. TED Speaker. Based in France. Visit: