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Frugal Innovations and Actor–Network Theory: A Case of Bamboo Shoots Processing in Manipur, India


Scarce resources, low-income level of consumers and cultural values drive innovators to resort to low-cost, local-centric idea of frugal innovations both in the formal and informal sectors. Such innovations are the outcome of complex processes and one needs to understand them in their context. We aim to explore the process of frugal innovations in the informal food processing sector of bamboo shoots in the Indian state of Manipur by using Actor–Network Theory. We conducted an ethnographic study and followed the actors engaged in bamboo shoots processing for 4 years. We found that frugal innovations are the outcome of negotiations among diverse actors as they attempt to extend their networks and maintain their complex relation during the process of translation. We also argue that the fundamental premises of ANT such as symmetry and inclusion of non-human actors; will enrich the understanding of frugal innovation processes, especially of the informal sector.

Des ressources limitées, le faible niveau de revenu des consommateurs et les valeurs culturelles incitent les innovateurs à recourir à des idées peu coûteuses et centrées sur le lieu, c’est-à-dire des innovations frugales dans les secteurs formel et informel. De telles innovations sont le résultat de processus complexes et il est nécessaire de les comprendre dans leur contexte. Nous explorons le processus d’innovations frugales dans le secteur informel, c’est-à-dire l’industrie agroalimentaire, en particulier les pousses de bambou à Manipur, en Inde, en utilisant la théorie acteur-réseau. Pour examiner le processus, nous avons mené une étude ethnographique et nous avons suivi les acteurs engagés dans la production des pousses de bambou. Nous avons constaté que les innovations frugales sont le résultat de négociations entre divers acteurs alors même qu’ils tentent d’étendre leurs réseaux et de maintenir leur relation complexe pendant le processus de traduction. Nous soutenons également que les prémisses fondamentales de la théorie acteur-réseau telles que la symétrie et l’inclusion d’acteurs non humains permettront d’élargir la compréhension des processus d’innovation frugale dans le secteur informel.

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We are thankful to the anonymous reviewers and Saradindu Bhaduri for their valuable inputs. The paper is an outcome of a doctoral research funded by ICSSR, New Delhi.

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Correspondence to Hemant Kumar.

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Devi, W.P., Kumar, H. Frugal Innovations and Actor–Network Theory: A Case of Bamboo Shoots Processing in Manipur, India. Eur J Dev Res 30, 66–83 (2018).

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  • bamboo shoots
  • frugal innovations
  • Actor–Network theory
  • India
  • food processing industry
  • Manipur