Frugal Innovation by Social Entrepreneurs in India - Report by Serco Institute

|Source: Serco Institute

Over the last 60 years, innovation in India's public services has frequently emerged in the absence of state involvement, with social enterprises stepping in where the government has failed.
Key findings
  • Enterpreneurs can create niche-based services without the need to universalise
  • Unregulated public service markets can foster innovation
  • Frugal innovation makes highly effective use of economies of scale
  • In underserved markets, imperfect products can be a necessary first step to meeting market needs

 As a consequence of the state's inability to provide needed public services, radical new perspectives have developed that might not have emerged if governments had imposed top-down initiatives adopted from the West.

"Frugal Innovation" is the idiom applied to this sweeping revolution in public service design and delivery. The term is used in India and other developing economies to describe innovation that minimises costs by creating frugal solutions to deliver improved or previously non-existent public services. Frugal innovation has given more people access to a wider range of services.

This paper provides insights into how solutions developed from the bottom-up in some of the most challenging public service environments can better meet the needs of citizens. It investigates a range of new perspectives applied to services by over 40 social enterprises in India. It challenges the notion that uniformity in delivering public services driven by a top-down centralist ideology translates into good value for money.

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