E-Seminar on "Fostering Frugal Engineering – the way forward in the new normal" by VDMA India

VDMA India

VDMA India in association with Central Manufacturing Technology Institute, (CMTI), Bangalore, as Associate Partner, will be organizing an interactive session on “Fostering Frugal Engineering – the way forward in the new normal” on Tuesday, 16th July 2020 at 4:00 PM IST which received an overwhelming response across different sectors of the mechanical engineering industry.

Necessity is the mother of invention, particularly when pushed back against the wall, human beings can be quite resourceful in coming up with frugal solutions that eliminate the problem or get the job done.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered many such innovations to pressing problems. But there is still much to be learned from these times of crisis for times of plenty.

The concept of frugal innovation is coming as a survival mechanism for many companies as well as startups. There have been some extraordinary moves like refitting the rolling stock of trains to become hospitals, producing millions of bottles of hand sanitizers pivoted by the distillers and automotive companies using their facilities to make ventilators and masks. These responses bear the hallmarks of ’frugal innovation‘—that is, doing more, with less, for the many, and being creative, innovative and resourceful in the face of institutional voids and resource constraints. As the industrial activities have started to resume gradually in the country, various business models are on high stakes, about to lose their businesses because of their unsustainable preferences in the past. Henceforth, the companies should start innovating frugally as early as possible with a more user-centric mindset for developing a product with low resource consumption, affordable, and wider knowledge transfer to the VDMA members in particular and in general to the Indian manufacturing industry.

The session was moderated by Mr. Sandip Roy, Regional Head (East), VDMA India who very warmly welcomed the panelists for the interactive web seminar and introduced them to the attendees of this interactive networking session.
The Esteemed speakers joining us for the session were:

  • Mr. Gaurav Gupta, Principal Secretary, Department of Commerce & Ind, Govt of Karnataka
  • Dr. Nagahanumaiah, Director, Central Manufacturing Technology Institute (CMTI)
  • Dr. Rajnish Tiwari, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Technology and Innovation Management of Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH)
  • Ms. Liza Wohlfart, Certified ScrumMaster®, Centre of Frugal Innovation, Germany, Fraunhofer IAO, Germany


Mr. Rajesh Nath, Managing Director, VDMA India, shared his views onhow COVID-19 has required unprecedented responses from nations all across the globe. He mentioned that the nature of severity and speed of the pandemic has been such that only handpicked countriesare left with the luxury of following traditional processes of testing and trialing new technologies, processes and medicines. On other hand he emphasized that the lack of time and resources available to respond to the crisis, as well as the need for rapid scaling in every context, has led to an explosion of innovative responses.

He also quoted instances where there have been some extraordinary initiatives. For instance, India refitting their rolling stock of trains to become hospital wards for patients with COVID-19. China constructed a 1,000-bed hospital in 10 days. Distilleries have pivoted to produce millions of bottles of hand sanitizer.

He further went on to state that such responses bear the hallmarks of so-called ’frugal innovation‘—that is, doing more, with less and being creative, innovative and resourceful in the face of institutional voids and resource constraints. This has been the reality of the experience of many low- and middle-income countries, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why so many frugal innovations have emerged. Frugal innovation has been touted for its merits in serving the needs of the poor or the bottom of the pyramid, for making business internationally competitive and for achieving sustainable development.

Mr. Rajesh Nath concluded by quoting Innovation and Management Advisor - Navi Radjou, who mentioned that Frugal Innovation teaches how to transform adversity into opportunity and how to find creative ways to rethink the tools you already have got.
In his closing remarks he also mentioned that affordable solutions, innovative business models or processes which ease delivery of services to citizens will allow more people to join the development process and also enable looking beyond the conventional way of doing things. We look forward to the inputs from our knowledgeable speakers to this topic of frugal engineering which has so much relevance in our country and is in keeping with the slogan of our Prime Minister to make India “Atmanirbhar”.
The closing remark of Mr. Nath was quickly followed by a short poll on the importance of frugal innovation for engineering industry. It is pretty evident from the feedback that post COVID when a lot of organizations are experiencing a financial crunch, frugal innovation can prove itself as a means to cut down the outflow of capital.In other words it can said that “Cost effectiveness should drive frugal engineering”

After the poll, Mr. Gaurav Gupta, Principal Secretary, Department of Commerce & Industries, Government of Karnataka was heartily welcomed and requested for his special address.

Mr. Gupta in his speech apprised the audience on the challenges and the state level issues faced by Karnataka government during the crisis. He also shared the mechanisms used by the Government of Karnataka to efficiently tackle all such hurdles. Mr. Gupta also informed the audience about the initiatives taken by garment/textile companies to manufacture masks and PPEs to combat the corona war. He educated the participants that almost 50% of the daily manufactured masks and PPEs are in fact from Karnataka. He emphasized that it is extremely crucial to repurpose and rise up to the requirement of the time.  He mentioned that German Organizations and the Government of Karnataka over the years have worked together for the technological and economical upliftment of the state. 

Mr. Gupta also addressed and welcomed the MSMEs of Germany to come forward and to work collaboratively for their mutual development. He mentioned that the government views this as an effective medium to further strengthen the already firm bond they share with Germany. He also expressed that it is time when R&D capabilities should be explored and expanded. He educated the participants on the MSME initiatives and programmes adopted by the government like Sarthak.

Mr. Gupta’s speech was followed by a second poll pertinent to the engineering industry.

The next speaker was Dr. Nagahanumaiah, Director, Central Manufacturing Technology Institute (CMTI) who spoke on product innovation and manufacturing. He cited several instances of how CMTI undertake research, develop technologies and machines, train man power and ultimately deploy into industrial applications. During his presentation he mentioned that frugal innovation would be a driver for reshaping and restructuring of manufacturing. He also touched upon the opportunities available for survival, recovery and sustainability.

The audience was also educated on the trends of Indian manufacturing and what would be needed going forward.

Dr. Rajnish Tiwari, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Technology and Innovation Management of Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), came forward next with his presentation and the following agendas.

He spoke on how MSMEs are responding creatively to the COVID crisis. He put forth examples of Indian innovators and inventors from IIT (Roorkee) and AIMS (Rishikesh) who have successfully developed low cost portable ventilators to combat the corona crisis. He also spoke on a how this current crisis could and already has opened up doors to unforeseen opportunities.

The attendees were also informed about several affordable healthcare innovations which very clearly proved Dr. Tiwari’s point that Frugal innovation or affordable intelligence is not just about “Jugaad” as we Indian might like to call it. It is rather both science and art to achieve the maximum possible with the bare minimum available.

He also apprised on how the multidimensional affordability has become has become the new approach to being frugal. He emphasized that excellence is not merely about hyper technological complexity or the maximum possible technological performance. Excellence is about creating highly effective solutions in a resource efficient manner.
Leaving the participants with plentyto ponder on, Dr. Rajnish Tiwari handed over the platform to Ms. Liza Wohlfart, Certified ScrumMaster®, Centre of Frugal Innovation, Germany, Fraunhofer IAO, Germany.

Ms Wohlfart’s presentation informed the attendees about the Centre of Frugal products and Manufacturing Systems and how it functions. She touched upon the following points in details.

She clearly mentioned that the most important characteristic of frugal innovations is smartness/excellence with simplicity. And neither of the two can be compromised with.

Before concluding she went on to cite examples of how COVID-19 has been a lever for frugal innovations by referencing to the Ugandan Market garden App and other examples. She also shared the success factors like empathy, creativity, radicality and awareness.

A third and final poll was conducted after the presentation. Where an over whelming 92% felt that frigal innovation has the capability to play a decisive role in rebuilding the staggering Indian economy.
The web seminar finally came to an end with a very interactive Q&A session where Mr. S Manohar, Regional Head (South), VDMA India moderated and put forth the questions and queries of attendees on the table. 

VDMA India extends a sincere gratitude to the panelists for their frank and open deliberations and for sharing their rich experience and all the participants who joined this interesting webinar to make it a huge success.

The huge participation is a clear proof that frugal innovation is the need of the hour for the mechanical engineering industry. And fostering frugal innovation is the way forward amidst the new normal.