In the last couple of months I have been giving a lot of thought to the “why” of Mobisy?
Why do we exist? Why do I think this will become something huge? Why am I working so hard? Why do our customers and users like us? Why are we able to post 3X growth YoY to become India’s 3rd fastest growing technology company? And so on.
A broad answer to some of these questions is in our mission of making an impact on hundreds of millions of lives, something I talked about in my last post. While that mission remains unchanged, it doesn’t spell out how we will make that impact. What is it we are doing now that will eventually help us make a difference in hundreds of millions of lives?
I discussed this with a handful of colleagues and close friends, and it was during one of these discussions that I had a lightbulb moment: I realized that the one value proposition that we’ve stood for from day one has been a concept I call “Algorithmic Jugaad.” I believe that that’s the mantra that has guided our work, it’s what makes us tick and it’s the one value that guarantees that we will achieve our mission.
BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
According to Wikipedia, jugaad “is a colloquial Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi word, which, roughly translated, refers to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules. It is also often used to signify creativity — to make existing things work, or to create new things with meager resources.” Some other terms that come to mind when we talk about jugaad are frugal, local, responsive/fast, personalised innovations born out of specific necessities. Also, “out of the box,” flexible, and inclusive. In short, it’s how things are done most of the time in India’s topsy-turvy, perpetually resource-strapped, dynamic environment.
Algorithmic, on the other hand, is something organized, repeatable, scalable, and automated. I believe that we at Mobisy identify strongly with an algorithmic way of thinking and doing things. Everyone in Mobisy is either an engineer by education or by thought/execution. Even our sales pitch talks about six steps to success! For every complex, subjective problem we encounter, we have logical, step-by-step solutions. Our solutions, with their scalable platform designs, reflect our digital, new age ways of thinking and our quick learning abilities. This is not only limited to our products but to every aspect of our business including sales, accounting, customer support and Distiman deliveries.
Arguably, the term “algorithmic jugaad” is something of an oxymoron – jugaad is almost the opposite of algorithmic. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is our value promise: We help our clients do the impossible. We help them organize, repeat, scale, and automate their jugaadoo retail supply networks faster and better than anyone else.
DID HE JUST SAY THAT?
I realize that jugaad has been a subject of a fair amount of conversation and controversy the past few years. Is jugaad good or bad? Is jugaad holding Indian businesses back or is it the reason we’ve been surprising the world with our resilience in the face of a global slowdown?
While the jury is still out on that, this is what we believe: we have witnessed first-hand how our customers have employed jugaad to create successful businesses in a diverse, fragmented, complex market like India’s. Many of them told us that the big retail supply automation players and consultants often offer solutions that require them to completely change how they work. This led to the company and its teams being slow to adopt the solutions and caused costly disruptions in the company’s functioning.
We believe in helping our customers succeed on their terms. We understand and respect the compulsions behind a certain unconventional/jugaadoo practice and are happy and proud to make it “algorithmic” and bring in efficiency to the jugaad!
Clearly, I see jugaad as something positive and necessary in a place like India. Just take a look at the seemingly impossible things we’ve achieved with jugaad:
1. India’s biggest jugaad :
2. The Jaipur foot/leg:
This celebrated innovation by Ram Chander Sharma and Dr. P.K. Sethi of Jaipur, is an inexpensive rubber-based prosthetic leg for people with below-knee amputations. The Jaipur foot is durable, water-proof and well-suited to Indian conditions. Plus, at the cost of $45 (in fact, provided free of cost to low income individuals), it is well within the reach of ordinary Indians and has helped more than a million amputees lead active, productive lives.
3. The low-cost sanitary pad machine:
Developed by the now famous social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham, this machine costs Rs. 65,000, while imported machines cost millions of rupees. Arunachalam’s efforts have inspired other entrepreneurs to also try to find solutions for menstrual hygiene in a country where the subject itself is taboo.
Here are some examples of jugaad that our customers have employed:
1. Right at the start ID Fresh, a leading brand of ready-to-cook products, decided to hire as sales executives only unemployed young men from its founder Musthafa PC’s village in Kerala. These young men could only speak Malayalam, but it didn’t hinder their work because most of Bangalore’s retailers are Malayalis. They would stay away from home so they had few work-life constraints. Due to this preference, ID Fresh had a cost effective, highly motivated, hardworking fleet of sales executives / delivery boys that helped the company gain traction in a competitive market.
2. FMCG giant Parle Agro, manufacturer of Frooti and Appy, has a different distribution structure for some of the south Indian states like Kerala where the challenges with labour are high. Parle Agro outsources sales distribution in such areas to “superstockists” who can manage local “politics” better.
3. Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has trained and deployed thousands of women across villages in India to act as sales representatives and brand champions for their products. It’s a win-win situation for HUL and the Shakti Ammas, as the women are called, as the initiative helps women earn more and become self-reliant and HUL gains better penetration into rural markets. The initiative has now been extended to the men of the family too.
So jugaad is not only great, it’s a must for a business to be successful . It ensures that all peripheries of the business are empowered to make decisions, making organisations far more entrepreneurial, nimble and efficient especially in diverse, volatile markets like India.
WALKING THE TALK – HOW BIZOM PUTS ALGORITHMS IN PLACE IN CHAOTIC SYSTEMS
1. The platform approach: Bizom is a customizable platform which caters to all downstream supply chain needs of brands in a single 360-degree solution.
2. The six-step model: To ease the transition of transforming our customers’ jugaads to efficient systems, we devised an algorithm – a six-step model – that describes how they can leverage Bizom to increase productivity by 70% or more.
3. Distiman: Mobisy’s game changing ordering app for mom-and-pop retailers, Distiman, reimagines the current chaotic and inefficient distribution system to create a simple hub and spoke model that keeps the traditional ecosystem intact while allowing the small retailer access to on-demand order fulfillment. Distiman has far-reaching implications for traditional retail and benefits both the small retailer (faster working capital rotation, ability to service customers better) and brands (access to real-time data on demand, better penetration).
Distribution system before distiman:
Distiman’s algorithmic jugaad on distribution
Additionally, jugaad, or frugal innovation, is an important part of a bootstrapped business and we, being a mostly bootstrapped company, celebrate that.
Jugaad is often thought of as a temporary fix or band-aid. This is where “algorithmic” comes in, to represent that we are not about temporary fixes. We’re building a platform that provides structure, scalability and repeatability to jugaad. We build algorithms so that we don’t have to deploy quick fixes repeatedly. We take these fixes and frugal innovations and codify it into a scalable solution – into a platform that we can continue to build innovative solutions on – hundreds of innovations or as we lovingly call them, jugaads – for millions of Indians!
We at Mobisy believe that we should accept and celebrate what we are – champions of a madly inventive, innovative, nimble, local and frugal retail universe. We stand for “Algorithmic Jugaad” and we truly believe this is the way to change the world.
Let us know what you think of the concept of “Algorithmic Jugaad.” Do you think jugaad is to be celebrated or discarded? Can jugaad be “algorithmized”? Leave a comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.