Despite the fact that the informal economy accounts for about two thirds
of GDP and 90% of employment, the informal economy seems absent from
almost all discussions of any kind of low-C revolution. Poor consumers
are least responsible for GHGs, but many of the products of the formally
registered and regulated industries which cause 70 % India’s pollution
are retailed in the informal economy. So does it play such a negligible
role in pollution as most people have assumed? Another significant
question is whether India’s informal economy would be an obstacle to a
low carbon revolution. Our wider research has tackled both these
questions but it is the second question that provoked the exploratory
project reported here. While the technological and organisational
components of a low-C revolution have been modelled in scenarios, here
we focus on the sector’s own capacity to adopt the kind of technological
and organisational changes that would be needed – in short to innovate.
This study asks whether and how innovation takes place in the informal
The paper has three parts. It first introduces and tries to clarify the
complex and often ‘fuzzy’ structure of knowledge within which the
question has to be answered. It then presents the case material from the
fieldwork, before welding it into an argument relating to the sets of
ideas with which we start.
An appendix of evidence may be found at
Harriss-White, B.; Rodrigo, G. Innovation in India’s Informal Economy. (2015) 51 pp.
Innovation in India’s Informal Economy