Friday, February 16, 2007

More thoughts: National Design Policy+ SMEs Insights

As a sequel to my thoughts, I also think that we are misssing a point if we do not connect
'DESIGN' to 'ENTREPRENEUR' (noun+verb both).  A successful entreprenur is well rounded as a 'design thinker'. He has a capability for going by 'gut feel', penetrating insights into market and society and hunger for making things happen through internal synthesis.
Similarly, there are numerous examples where 'designers' have turned into an entrepreneur (beyond starting a design consulting company, like me).
A country should be promoting 'design' and 'entreprenurship' at the bottom most level of industry and enterprise. This may encompass the technology start-ups, craftsmen and micro-suppliers to SMEs and multinationals.
Two days back I attended and spoke at a SME conference in Mumbai, organised by Financial Express. I already knew that this sector is a sleeping giant for great Indian dream, but this seminar brought sharper focus on that. Here are the learnings, which all of us should know and add-
SMEs constitute-
a) 95% of Industrial production and 40% of the total export is through SMEs in India
b) Employing close to 3.5 Crore people
c) Producing over 7000 products
d) Adds to 7% of GDP (..point to be noted)
Last october a new category has been added to SMEs, called 'Micro-enterprise'. Government identifies them based on the investments in 'plant and machinery' i.e. for manufacturing sector - micro enterprise has max investment in plant and manchinery of 25 lakhs, Small scale <5 crores, Medium 10 Crores. Similarly, for service sector (like design companies), it is 10 lakhs for micro, 2 crores for small and 5 crores for medium scale enterprise.
This conference attracted around 100 odd SME owners and several SME business heads from Banks and Financial Institutions like RBI, CRISIL, SBI FACTORS etc. etc. I spoke on 'Life Beyond Balance Sheet' i.e. Innovation. I learnt that there is dire need to have a good standard presentation on 'WHAT IS DESIGN', which all of us can use. All of us (practising designers) have been making our own pitch presentations since olden days that changes according to the 'design literate' and 'not so literate' clients. It would help if under a national initiative, a lot of visual communication material can be made just to address that single question, in a simple language (no mega talk).
Secondly, coming from a design company, my presentation had some visuals of 'before design'  and 'after design' images. They always make a good story. While everybody else has flat presentations (either verbal or too much text), such industry groups welcome the visual change in long events.
Thirdly, some of the basic things that we learn at design school like 'gestalt laws' and how to apply them in day-to-day corporat life, can provide a lot od interesting discussion. We do not need to always use 'iPoD' as a pivotal design prop.
Fourth, I also talked about how to get design help i.e. name of the institutions, design companies etc.... I listed them all...But there is no single point-of-contact I can refer...probably Prof. Kirti Trivedi is listening and he would spruce up the site to make it single authentic resource of design support.
Best regards
Manoj Kothari
NID-AED-PD-97, IIT Bombay B.Tech. 92
Onio Design Pvt. Ltd.
Sense| Strategize| Design 

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

street_furniture_at_mumbai_fort: Can we copy good things across country: Open Source

This is what I saw outside Jehangir Art Gallery. Strong Stainless Steel,
simple structure that guards a tree and also provoides public seating in
crowded streets of Mumbai. If something can last in Mumbai, it will last
anywhere in the world...

My views on National Design Policy

I have only seen the draft that appeared in the news papers a few days back. Here is what I read in that-

1) First and foremost, it is a very strong note that government is finally taking a note of a profession that country needs so badly. We all know how Korea has transformed itself through successful implementation of its 5-year plans on Design. Although it has been more  than 40 years since NID was started in India, and more than a decade of liberalization, that now we see some signs of definitive 'intent' (no action still) in the governance. Kudos to the team that pressed for it.

2) A policy statement like this would certainly culminate into 'some' action on ground (even if 10% of what is promised, implemented in next 3 years…country should rejoice). It also means that policy statement reads like a utopian bonanza. I see no specific focus within the agenda….for example,  SMEs need the intervention of design the most. They are the ones who would be key drivers of Indian engine for Innovation. Where is the specific highlight on them? They all go under 2 lines, while design education and awareness is hogging most of the 'intent'.

3) There is no specific mention of 'design practitioners' who are the flagbearers  of design. The whole idea of Design in India rests partly on their shoulders too. It is like talking of health-care improvement without mention of Doctors…

3a) Design, to deliver successfully, needs not only designers, education institutes and industry…but a collective eco-system that includes small-time suppliers, fabricators, artists, artisans etc. Small scale industry today is looked upon as just a 'supplier' to organized players….but in a 'design' led economy, this SSI base itself can become a hot-bed of innovation..This becomes a 'design eco-system',,,,this requires a mention and focus in the vision document….

4) 'Crafts' is a favorite phrase to indicate the Indian heritage, whenever we discuss Design and India. But apart from generic statements like 'we should promote' Indian traditional crafts and 'orginality'..there is no pointers that reflect a thoughtful discussion behind the text.

 5) From a vision statement itself, the policy should have spelled out the course…i.e. first two years would be focused on 'Design Education and Awarenes'…next two years would be focused on 'Promoting culture of Innovation in the Indian industry' etc. etc..

 6) It is still using 'design' as a 'noun'…missing the whole notion of design as a 'verb' which is the central idea of 'attitude and process to innovate' in today's times.

7) There is no connection …not even mention to touch upon 'cultural anthropology' and 'history'…where is the 'Indian ness' coming from? No mention of research on what could be the Indian Design…..all that we practice today is a western view on design….whole idea of 'sustainability' is a western idea, built into original Indian thinking already….It is imperative that while National policy focuses heavily on 'Exportworthiness' of 'designs', there should have been a due space for 'softer' and 'essential' issues.

 Manoj Kothari

Onio Design Pvt. Ltd.
'Begin Differently' - Sense | Strategize | Design