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How Design Can Take 'Make In India' To The Next Level

25/02/2016 8:18 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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An Indian labourer cuts patterned fabric at the April Cornell clothing factory in Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi on October 16, 2012. The April Cornell company exports 50 percent of their clothing and linen production to the USA and Canada, and the rest to European Union countries. India's industrial output picked up pace in August, official data showed, growing 2.7 percent from the same month a year earlier in a better-than-expected but still muted performance. AFP PHOTO/ Andrew Caballero-Reynolds (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Design is not new to India. Historically, Indian designs were much sought after - the artefacts from the Mughal and Rajput period speak volumes of our heritage in this sphere. Local artisans and craftsmen in India made some of the most exquisite pieces that are cherished the world over.

During 'the licence raj era,' manufacturing was in the hands of a select few who produced goods - which were utilitarian rather than attractive -- for a closed market. Countries like China took the lead, manufacturing designs created in the USA and Europe. Companies like IKEA, among other retail giants, outsource much of their production to China.

The need for Design in India

Fast forwarding to today, the 'Make in India' story has great potential and couldn't be better timed, with our vast market of more than one billion people being courted by Western businesses whose own economies are shrinking.

Good design is an integral part of manufacturing and business success and intrinsic to sustainable development.

But 'Make in India' needs a design component to be a wild success. It is 'Design in India' that will allow India to be much more than an outsourced production hub like China. It's 'Design in India' which will allow us to take our rightful place among global economies, marrying our tech and IT skills with our design heritage.

Design is more integral to good business now than ever before. The big questions are how can India draw on its knowledge and skill base to forge a distinct design identity, and how we can use design as a force for change for our economic and social development?

In that context, our 'Make in India' campaign and the recent Make in India week has renewed a sense of pride in attempting to showcase India's design potential and innovation across our manufacturing sectors. This campaign is crucial and is the need of the hour to help transform our country into a global manufacturing success.

Good design is an integral part of manufacturing and business success and intrinsic to sustainable development.

What is design?

For me the real question that needs resolving in India is this: What IS design?

It was Steve Jobs who famously said, "Design is not what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." Some of the world's most successful corporate giants including Apple, Pinterest, and Airbnb are focused on the user point of view, and, as a result, have design at the core of their businesses.

It was Steve Jobs who famously said, "Design is not what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."

Design is gaining increasing importance in the corporate world. Several start-ups co-founded by designers have been acquired by the likes of Facebook, Adobe, Dropbox, LinkedIn since 2010. Over 10% of Fortune 125 companies have CXO level positions focused on design.

Nike's CEO is a designer as are the founders of Airbnb. Very soon, we may find the coolest tech companies run by designers, and even boardrooms full of designers.

Some successful Indian companies with design at their core include Good Earth (connected with craft communities), Paper Boat (simply packaging childhood memories) and Indigo Airlines (applying design across all their business processes which led to a huge market share for the brand).

The 'design thinking approach'

I believe that our future lies in the 'design thinking approach', which essentially is a holistic way of looking at products, services and even business strategies. Using a 'solution-based approach' focused on an improved situation or result and then working backwards creatively to solve problems to adapt to the needs of future generations. Basically, making things that people want versus making people want things. And this to me is what will contribute to the success of the Make in India campaign, impacting future generations and putting India on the global manufacturing map decisively.

I believe that our future lies in the 'design thinking approach'... Basically, making things that people want versus making people want things.

In recent times, the term 'design thinking' has gained in popularity among academic institutions. Even though the concept has been around for several decades, it is only now getting recognition among business owners.

Why should design be important to us?

In addition to the obvious, good design has multiple implications resulting in an enhanced social value and business success. Better design means better living. It brings tangible and sustainable improvements to our living environment.

'Design thinking' helps innovation - allows us to make big bets on new products and services and at the same time follows a lean approach on validation of concepts and the customer experience becomes the key differentiator.

Corporates have now started to look for designers and strategists who have know-how on building sustainable products and implanting processes.

I believe that to make the government thinking fit into the design policy of India we need to go a step further and look at 'Create in India'; provide impetus to Creative Entrepreneurs through start up programs thus and manufacture better products using 'design thinking' across sectors.

Finally, good design makes us happy and the key elements which will help us achieve that are DICE -- Design, Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. Perhaps more stories of Indian design will be created as the movement takes shape.

Here's to Design in India!

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