Fast, fun and frugal innovation

by Guest Blogger, 02 January 2020
Jaideep Prabhu

Jaideep Prabhu gives an insight into innovation and why the best innovation is often fast, fun and frugal.


What is the importance of frugal innovation?

When people think of innovation, they often think of technology, of something that is expensive, and that has been developed through structured processes in labs over a long period of time.

"in the developing world, where most of the world lives, something like 3 billion people live on less than $9 a day in purchasing parity terms"

In fact, I have learned that around the world the best innovation is often frugal, fast and fun. 

In the developing world, where most of the world lives, something like 3 billion people live on less than $9 a day in purchasing parity terms. Many of these people face unmet needs in core areas like education, health, energy and financial services. Increasingly, however, large and small companies have begun developing market-based solutions to meet the needs of this large untapped market.


Frugal innovation in education

As a life-long academic, I have a deep interest in frugal innovation in education. The game-changer in this regard has been online courses of various kinds. These courses have already begun to reach millions of people around the world who can now learn without spending the time or money traditionally needed to go to university. Online courses can also benefit universities: they allow universities to expand their reach and fulfil their missions in a more cost and time efficient way.


jaideep prabhu

How computing and the internet are changing the nature of education

In my 2015 book Frugal Innovation, I argued that such innovation has the potential to be a major engine of change around the world in the decades to come. In the sphere of education in particular, cheap computing and the internet are revolutionising access to education around the world. Even more significantly, these tools are changing the nature of education itself, moving it in the direction of practical application, creativity and entrepreneurship, away from book-based, rote learning. Frugal innovation is a truly global phenomenon whose impact will bring East and West, rich and poor, urban and rural together to make the world a better place.


Jaideep Prabhu is the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Business and Enterprise at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. He is also the Director of the Centre for India & Global Business (CIGB).

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