Co-production of frugal innovation: Case of low cost reverse osmosis water filters in India

Linda Tuulia Annala, Ankur Sarin, Jennifer Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The increased role of market actors in the provision of drinking water has implied a greater salience to issues of affordability. With its emphasis of increasing affordability without compromising on quality, the idea of frugal innovation holds out particular promise in resource constrained environments. In this paper, we study the case of low cost household water filters using reverse osmosis (RO) technology in the Indian city of Ahmedabad. Using mixed methods, we find the citizen to be an active participant e a coproducer
e in the frugal innovation process that allows small scale, local entrepreneurs to customize their products and services to the needs and price expectations of their customers. This co-production process, that has been facilitated by the proximity of the user with the local entrepreneur, has not only reduced private costs borne by users but also been as successful as their more expensive counterparts in meeting the diverse needs of end users. Further, we find that the context facilitating such service co-production is characterized by institutional co-production, with actions of both the state and citizen creating the demand for innovation around more affordable, private solutions. While there is much to celebrate in the value created by the frugal innovation, we believe the implications of the contested and unregulated water filter technology suggest reasons for caution.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume171, Supplement
Issue numberJanuary
Pages (from-to)S110-S118
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 11.07.2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management


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