Friday, August 11, 2006

Innovation and Onio

Yesterday, David Griffiths, a leading design management expert practising in UK and India with equal footing, visited Onio. he had met me during CII-NID Design Summit 2005 at Mumbai and later I proposed his name as a facilitator for our London Roundtable (Insight India 2006), to Genevieve.
Daivd had interesting observations to make about Indian design industry. He thinks that Indian design industry is today what British Design Industry was in 60s. There was a boom in 80s where a lot of government focus shifted to design, to the extent of Mrs. Margret Thatcher, hosting a design summit at 10 Downining Street. So Britain is an 'advance design economy' today. It may take India another 10 or 15 years to reach there. He further explained that what is meant by 'maturity of design market' is to have complete ecosystem there i.e. if somebody wants to scale up the design operations, by 10 fold very quickly...it is impossible to to in India today while it is much easier to collect trained design manpwer in various hierarchies in UK.
UK has more than 100,000 graduate in Design every year, while a paltry 500 in India (yes, he is not inlcuding the graduates from technology training centers i.e. Arena Multimedia or even Commercial Artists trained in Art Schools...why?).

My guesstimate is more optimistic. India would need 5 years to grab this opportunity by horns and make the new ecosystem happen. Nothing behaves lineraly in the new economy...not even the number of design school that would open in coming few years, nor the curiosity of new age consumers...all are growing in exponential fashion. The spark which has been present in India for more than 40 years, but never flared-up, would take much lesser time in the new realities compared to earlier leaps. Software Industry has already done a lot o ground work for many things to just flourish. Companies like Onio would become the highly-wanted companies in next 5 years..but this wait to the 'flight' would be full of heroic deeds...

Somebody asked hima question- if UK is already such a successful, advanced design country then why are there no brands or products coming out like 'iPoD'. David's answer aligned my thinking to Onio's branding and India's future. According to him it was no more about one or two 'sexy, cool, stylish' design stuff or brands. It is more about the kind of benefits that an economy draws by virtue of heavy focus on design (TESCO was his example at hand). If through a good design, a large chain of stores can reduce few grams of plastic from one of its product i.e.dustbins, it is a multi-million dollar saving in the material cost and transportation cost making through the year and the planet a bit less polluted...A combined effect of design thinking through the products, through the categories, through the organisation and through the country is enormous. It can transform the country by this "little integrated thoughtfulness".....which has been aptly called "pragmatic design' in the latest book named- "Design of Things to Come" from Wharton School Publishing.

Pragmatic Design is what is going to transform the "knowledgeware" that is accumulating over the years through software Industry, into a profitable and internationally tradable tool. It is no more about path-breaking inventions. It is about 'sensing' the changing life-style of people, tweaking the existing technology to fulfill the new needs and tactfully presenting the remix to the consumers. 'Remix' is not demeaning the word 'innovation' but abstracting it to the sociological realm, where this is a fully existent 'trend' across catedories.