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Move from jugaad to jhakaas: Anand Mahindra at IIT-B

By Divya Nair
Last updated on: August 11, 2015 17:56 IST
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"Jugaad is a 'make do' attitude.

"In today's extremely challenging world, it leads to compromise on sophistication and quality, cutting-edge technology and breakthroughs.

"I strongly feel that jugaad is not enough. What we need is something else."

At the 53rd convocation ceremony held at the IIT-Bombay, Anand Mahindra reasoned why young Indians need to use their imagination to disrupt and create new breakthroughs.

(LtoR) Kailash Satyarthi felicitates Anand Mahindra in the presence of Devang Khakhar

On August 8, 2015, Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra Group of Companies was conferred with the doctor of science degree (Honnoris Causa) at the 53rd annual convocation ceremony of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

Mahindra was honoured for his extraordinary commitment in furthering the cause and growth of automobile industry, and for his significant contribution to the social development of India.

He was felicitated by chief guest and Nobel peace prize recipient Kailash Satyarthi.

In his acceptance speech, the tech genius, an alumnus of Harvard Business School who heads a billion dollar organisation urged young graduates to focus on imagination and move from jugaad (make do) to jhakaas(wow).

Presenting the transcript of the 10-minute long speech that we believe will inspire each of you to become global entrepreneurs. Read on...


When I graduated from high school, some 45 years ago, the time was such in India that if you did well in the sciences stream, then adults, parents and society at large would say send him to IIT. 'Bete ko IIT bhej do'

Happily, I had done very well in academics, so I was dutifully packed off to what was then known as the Agarwal's IIT Coaching Classes.

I believe they're equivalent to today's Kota Classes.

Fortunately for me, after about three months of enduring that, I quickly realised I had no affinity for science.

And that I had done well in school simply because I had mastered the system.

Which essentially meant that I had figured out which textbooks I should really focus on; I almost did an impression analysis of question papers of the last 10 years and focussed only on those answers.

I had to confront the reality that it would be a grave error on my part if I were to confuse my proficiency in mastering the system for my passion for science.

So I stopped going to the coaching class and I joined the JJ School of Architecture searching what my alternative for engineering would be.

Fortunately or unfortunately, that college went on strike.

So I ended up in the US studying liberal arts and majoring in filmmaking, which as you can imagine is completely different from engineering or the IIT.

My parents were no longer alive, god bless them wherever they are, for they were extremely liberal and encouraged my alternative thinking.

But I can't help feeling that if they are looking down on me today, they will be extremely amused that their maverick son, finally did receive an IIT degree.

To be honest, I have obviously, enormous respect for the science profession and scientists.

This is truly a distinguished award and honour bestowed upon me for which I am extremely grateful to the IIT committee.

Now that I am an honorary member of the IIT, I want to use this occasion to share with you some of the things that concerns me greatly.

And this has to do more with the future of this country.

Everybody has been saying this for the last five to 7 years that 'jugaad' is India's greatest contribution to the world.

What worries me is that we are quite happy with that title.

Frankly, we are asking too little if we are going to settle ourselves for this and that we are going to be sufficient with the title of 'Capital of the jugaad in the world.'

Jugaad is definitely an innovative solution for day to day problems. It worked for the country in the legal resources.

If you ask me, it is a 'make do' attitude.

In today's extremely challenging world, it leads to compromise on sophistication and quality, cutting-edge technology and breakthroughs.

I strongly feel that jugaad is not enough. What we need is something else.

I am going to use a word which is very appropriate in this state of Maharashtra.

We need to move from jugaad to jhakaas.

For people from the Monash University, who may not understand the word 'Jhakaas/it is a slang word which translates in to the American equivalent to 'wow'. A wow product, an amazing breakthrough.

It is about thinking very differently, not just thinking cheap.

And that thinking differently results in technologies which will disrupt our markets and lower markets.

Take for example, the ECG machine which was available for 10000 dollars in the rest of the world was developed here for 1000 dollars.

You can't reduce the cost for something with the same level of performance from 10000 dollars to 1000 without resigning without thinking differently.

At the beginning of the millennium, we designed a utility vehicle, the Scorpio.

We did it when our partner was the Ford Motor company were shocked by the fact that we were able to develop a ground up fresh utility vehicle for 1/10th of the cost that will be done in the US.

We did not use rocket science or new technology, but we did disrupt processes.

We did change the rules of the game.

One example, we decided for all modules of the car, we would have one single vendor, which was unheard of at that time.

We collaborated with the vendor and named them part of our process

To me, that was jhakkaas.

The question now is how do we create an environment that would lead the change from jugaad to jhakaas?

I cannot share all my ideas here and even at the cost of simplicity,

I can share an abridged version of my advanced theory.

Fact is that jhaakaas is about disruption and sustained disruption requires an educational culture where questioning is encouraged and failure is evinced.

To question is the ability to see beyond boundaries and imagination.

How can you encourage innovation if you are not able to imagine disruption?

Look back at Archimedes, he wasn't thinking in a linear fashion, writing equation when he found the principle. He was in a bathtub for god's sake.

All he did was joined the dots of a natural event that took place.

Similarly, the apple may have fallen on Newton's head in a straight line but the creator in him encouraged him to take a step away.

If you ask anyone in the audience here to do a mental exercise -- what the two Is in IIT stand for.

They would say 'intelligence' right off the back and then say 'innovative' or inventive.

I would argue the second I stands for imagination.

This is an educational culture where your faculty created an environment that encourages you to think. This is a climate that nurtures the right hemisphere of your brain.

Here, you're encouraged to take risks.

The right brain hemisphere is also where the artistic in us, the sensitive in us is encouraged and when that is married to our left brain, that's where creative leaps take place.

I believe you all are very good and bright students.

The director earlier mentioned Mood Indigo, I don't believe that an event to the magnitude of Mood Indigo would come up in any college campus where you are exploring all attributes and possibilities in the country.

I compliment you for having creating that atmosphere.

What I ask of you today, though is to enhance your focus on that 'I'.

And also to propagate that vision to create a template where the mind can be unchained and spread that gospel throughout India and Asia.

Most institutes in Asia are woefully inadequate when it comes to encouraging manufacturing.

In India, the IITs are idols of excellence.

I urge you all, students and scientists to become evangelists of imagination.

If you do that and if succeed in creating a new educational culture, no one would be happier than I am when the world recognises that they will be well served to not just Make in India but also Imagine in India.

Thank you. 

Lead image: (LtoR) Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi felicitates Anand Mahindra with the doctor of science degree (Honnoris Causa) in the presence of Devang Khakhar, director, IIT-Bombay at the 53rd annual convocation of the institute. Credit: Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

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Divya Nair / Rediff.com