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  • Writer's pictureAnirudh Gupta

Frugal Innovation

Frugality is going through a 4th Renaissance as a societal virtue. In fact, Frugality 4.0 can almost embody Responsible Innovation.

Adam Smith generously uses the word "frugality" 48 times in the Wealth of Nations. 48 times. Clearly the Father of Modern Economics was onto something.

In the 21st-century, it has become almost necessary to rapidly innovate. I believe it is even more imperative to frugally rapidly innovate. The idea of doing more with less is not new. And this mindset has a special stickiness within the current buzzword era of fail fast and move forward, prototype&iterate, DDMS (digital design, manufacturing and services), etc.

There are many types and classifications of frugal innovation:

A Few Types of Frugal Innovation

... but they all have a few characteristics in common. They are inherently:

  • F - Functional

  • R - Robust + Resource Efficient

  • U - User Friendly

  • G - Growth Opportunities

  • A - Affordable (monetary and societal)

  • L - Less Complex / Simplified


When Dhirubhai Ambani (Founder of the Reliance Empire) pondered in the mid-90's whether it would someday be possible to make a phone call for the price of a postcard, he essentially enforced a constraint around a problem, and set out to find a solution. Today, that dream is visible (and accessible) for all in the form of telecom behemoth Reliance Jio.

The mission he set for himself was to someday provide the people of India with access to equality in spite of economic inequality. Quite a remarkable "Why?" to guide his vision with, powered primarily through the mental constraints of frugal innovation :)

Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham says, "It's easier to make an inexpensive product more powerful than to make a powerful product cheaper". So it pays to build the simple inexpensive option.

Which is not to say that we should embrace a scarcity mindset. On the contrary, we should build for maximum consumer and societal value, by encoding the DNA of frugal innovation:

DNA of Frugal Innovation

I believe the tools to innovate more creatively, more responsibly and more quickly lie within this formula.

"Gradatim ferociter"


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