ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From the Phased Manufacturing Programme to Frugal Engineering

Some Initial Propositions

Although the structural reforms, initiated in 1991, did not lead to any appreciable increase in either the efficiency or the export orientation of Indian manufacturing firms, unexpectedly, there has been a visible improvement in manufacturing design capabilities in certain segments, for instance, in the motor vehicle sector. The paper suggests that the development of "frugal engineering"--an approach of "frugality" in resolving complex design problems--is a real advance. It suggests, further, that this approach developed from the experiences of the procedures laid down in the phased manufacturing programme of the 1950s, and first found expression in the successful forays into some specific export markets by Indian vehicle manufacturers in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although this design expertise cannot solve the problems of manufacturing efficiency, particularly across the wider industrial sphere, it indicates that Indian firms have the expertise to resolve problems related to the manufacturing sphere if strategic goals are appropriately set by managers.

The author thanks Ashok Desai for suggesting a critical link which galvanised the writing of this paper. The paper was presented at the National Conference on "India's Industrialisation: How to Overcome Stagnation?" held at the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development, New Delhi, during 19–21 December 2013.

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