The Disadvantages of Frugal Innovation and Possible Solutions
The disadvantages of frugal innovation are that the materials used to produce products like the wind driven turbo roof ventilator manufactured by Anchit Ispat Ltd. do not really last or do a very good job of providing the expected service attached to the concept. The wind driven turbo roof ventilator is meant to provide comfortable living by venting hot air out the roof (Anchit Ispat Ltd., 2009)but what if there is no wind for long periods of time? This can be the case in many parts of India, so without even the slightest breeze this frugally designed innovation simply will not work at all.
One solution to the problem would be to harness sustainable energy such as solar power using solar roof panels that collect energy from the suns rays. This concept would work in India and allow energy to be stored that could then be used to power the ventilator and help keep homes cool all year round. However, sustainable concepts are much more likely in developed worlds where there are incentives to use them, often promoted by governments in terms of tax savings for consumers who buy products that are green (Gallagher & Muehlegger, 2011).
In a country like India, the incentives are not there and governments of emerging markets lack the resources to make sustainability a reality. As Brem and Ivens (2013) ask: What role can sustainability play for businesses whose home base and/or strategic focus is on markets where customer demand and stakeholder pressure do not (yet) provide similar incentives for a new and sustainable look at innovation? (p. 32). The reality is that for countries like India, sustainability is a good idea and would work, but when frugality is the name of the game, sustainability can require some upfront investment that can seem to go against the grain for consumers looking to save money upfront.
Upfront investment can actually save money over the long haul, howeverand that is the main idea that drives sustainability. It might cost more to have solar panels installed on ones roof, but the savings over time will be positive. Frugal innovation has its own appeal and it is not in fact very different from the appeal of sustainability: both promote the concept of eliminating wastethe key is that in order to be frugal over time, some initial investment or outlay has to be provided. Sustainability is the way towards frugality and can support frugal innovation, which by itself is limited in terms of what it can do (Knorringa, Pea, Leliveld & Van Beers, 2016).
So while the disadvantages of frugal innovation are that the short term upfront savings are soon displaced by backend costs, the solution is to invest in a long term strategy for saving upfront and reap the benefits over the long haul. In the example of the wind driven roof ventilator, the appeal is the low costbut in those long hot months when there is virtually no breeze the design will be seen as flawed. That is where sustainability comes into play to support the design (Kates et al., 2001). By having the sustainable feature of solar panels working in tandem with the frugal innovation of the roof ventilator, the design will work all year because of the energy provided by the solar panels which collect and store energy from the sun. There is a cost to install them on the roof but once installed there is no need for upkeep.
This same idea of sustainability can be applied to other concepts of frugal innovation to help complement the concept of saving energy, eliminating waste and cutting down on cost. Both ideas stem from the same desire of consumers to be more conscious about their footprint and effective use of their resources.
Anchit Ispat Ltd. (2009). Wind driven turbo roof ventilator. Retrieved from
Brem, A., & Ivens, B. (2013). Do frugal and reverse innovation foster sustainability?
Introduction of a conceptual framework. Journal of Technology Management for Growing Economies, 4 (2), 31-50.
Gallagher, K. S., & Muehlegger, E. (2011). Giving green to get green? Incentives and
consumer adoption of hybrid vehicle technology.Journal of Environmental Economics and management,61(1), 1-15.
Kates, R. W., Clark, W. C., Corell, R., Hall, J. M., Jaeger, C. C., Lowe, I., … &
Faucheux, S. (2001). Sustainability science.Science,292(5517), 641-642.
Knorringa, P., Pea, I., Leliveld, A., & Van Beers, C. (2016). Frugal innovation and
development: Aides or adversaries?.The European Journal of Development Research,28(2), 143-153.
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