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International Conference on Frugal Approach to Innovation at FORE

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Everyone acknowledges the growing importance of Innovation in an era where issues such as disruption, environmental degradation, climate change, and risk are dominating headlines every day. The term Frugal Innovation is often related to doing more and better with less. The emphasis is on traditional techniques and cultural roots, which makes it particularly relevant for emerging economies like India.

To discuss strides made in frugal innovation and its future, FORE School of Management, New Delhi hosted the ‘FORE International Conference on Frugal Approach to Innovation’ at its campus on December 13-14, 2019. This was the eighth conference of the annual international conference series hosted by FORE. Importantly, the conference brought together:

  • practitioners (who are presently doing it, as well as, those who may be inspired to do it),
  • policymakers (who can provide impetus for developing the required ecosystem), and
  • academicians (who will study and disseminate the knowledge around this approach).

The Conference thus provided a platform where the policymakers, practitioners, and academicians could have a meaningful and systematic dialogue through panel discussions. The Conference format also consisted of two parallel academic and practitioner tracks so that practice could inform theory and vice versa.

In his opening remarks, FORE’s Director Jitendra K Das reflected the unique importance of the event saying, “This Conference is a unique and first of its kind initiative in India. It gives us pleasure to say that our efforts in the direction of Frugal Innovation are being gradually recognised by prominent people in industry and academia. As B-Schools, we do have technological limitations to develop frugal technologies. Nonetheless our Center for Research and Innovation in Frugal Technology Management (CRIFT) at FORE is an initiative to find such innovations and bring them to daylight to benefit everyone.”

The Conference consisted of five Plenary Sessions (Technological Enablers of Frugality, Alternate Spaces for Learning and Education, Future of Urban and Rural Spaces, Frugal Innovations for Social Good, and “Frugal” Oriented Business Models and Ecosystem for Entrepreneurship) and multiple tracks that looked at specific developments and applications in Frugal Innovation. These tracks saw presenters from leading universities and academic institutions across the world discuss their current research on multiple topics.

Many speakers shared insightful research and new developments in this exciting field. Here are some highlights:

Speaking about the perception that frugality = cutting corners, Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, Director and Founder, Malpani Ventures, Mumbai, India said, “don’t think being frugal is a disadvantage. It’s up to you to be creative, play to your strengths and turn it into an advantage.”

On the particular relevance of Frugal Innovation for India, Mr. Vinamra Pandiya, Founder & CEO at Qtrove.com, Bengaluru, India stated, “Frugal Innovation is the need of the hour in India due to limited resources and growing population. India can lead the world if we move from ‘ do more with less’ to do better with less”.

In some sense, Frugal Innovation is not something mystical or all that rare. Aditendra Jaiswal, Lead Enabler, Srijan Sanchar said it well about the ubiquity of Frugal Innovation: “Change your perception and you’ll find a lot of frugality already involved”.

As to what ‘frugal’ implies, according to Ritika Sinha, Co-Founder, GloWorld Energy, “frugal certainly makes for good economics. Frugal doesn’t mean just finishing tasks through jugaad but it is about running a business which is quality driven and sustainable in the longer run.”

The simplicity of Frugal Innovation was brought out by Ms Orly Goldschmidt, Head of Public Diplomacy, at Embassy of Israel in India who said, “Doubt everything, assert yourself and discuss your ideas to arrive at innovative solutions.”

The approach towards Frugal Innovation involves “Adjustment. Interfacing of hard technology & soft skills. Perception. Awareness. Attention. And finally, recognizing the challenges” as per Dr. Vinayshil Gautam, Senior Adviser, TRIFED and Chairman – D K International Foundation.

The Conference was ably supported by:

  • Knowledge Partners: Smart Village, Maker’s Asylum, and ICE&SDGs
  • Academic Partners: Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa (CFIA), Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI), and Australasian Frugal Innovation Network (AFIN)
  • Industry Partners: Sanshodhan, SunMoksha, PotHoleRaja, and Clean Energy Access Network

The Conference was an effort to look for answers and push forward the research in the field of Frugal Innovation and in this exciting endeavour was a resounding success. The Valedictory Function closed proceedings with a presentation of the Conference Report, Closing Address by Dr. Jitendra K. Das, an Awards Ceremony for the papers presented, and Valedictory Address by Dr. V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi.

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