After the constant hustle and bustle of Mumbai, the calm of the “small” city of Pune was much welcomed from a small town girl like me. I use the term small loosely since the city has a population of 3.3 million people, slightly larger than my home state (Mississippi)’s population of 2.9 million. While we were in Pune, we visited two design firms and a university.
The first design firm we visited, Elephant Design, offered a wide range of design services including product design, information/graphic design, packaging, and interior design that captured the essence of the company’s brand and philosophies. In a particular case study they presented about Sakal newspaper, the designers were able to redesign particular issues and elements of the newspaper in a way that made the newspaper appeal to a wider customer base, including India’s growing young population. What I found most inspiring was that not only were they able to deliver results in the form of increased leadership, their social problem-related issue design caught the eyes of local governments and was able to impact change. One unique thing about Elephant Design is some of their branded promotional items contain zebra prints. When we asked why they had zebra printed things, they jokingly told us because the founders said elephant skin isn’t as pretty.
The second design firm was Onio, which mostly specialized in product research and innovation. It was very interesting the great research insights they found in order to create products that serve various markets, including Bottom of the Pyramid markets (BOPM). This company really sought to learn the DNA of whatever Indian consumer a product targeted in order to create a product that consumers want and can use. At this presentation, we discussed bottom of the pyramid consumers’ desires outside of functionality. Unlike what most multinational companies originally thought, companies cannot strip a product of most of its features and sell it at a lower price and expect rural or lower class consumers to jump at the product. Now consumers are seeking style, added features, and modernity to show their upward mobility to the world.
Both of the design firms seemed to use some of the 12 principles of innovation described in Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. For example, principle 2,
“Innovation requires hybrid solutions”, suggests companies must merge new innovations with old to create a quality product for these markets. Onio utilized this when they designed a new lockbox with touchpad buttons. With India’s climate, dust is a problem and can usually end up tampering with the functionality of the old key-based lock boxes. Using this relatively newer type of buttons helped to ensure functionality for a longer period of time. Principle 3 states that an innovation must be scalable and transportable across nations in order to reach other BOPMs. Elephant Design created a emergency wind-up cell phone charger that could be very easily scaled across nations. With mobile penetration increasing worldwide, I’m sure there are other countries that need products with the same infrastructure limitations and it would be easy to provide this innovation anywhere.
Like I mentioned before, we also got to visit Symbiosis International University. We visited their MBA program that held concentrations in advertising, public relations, and media management. It was really fun sitting in their campaign class, getting to meet the students and they even sang for us! At the bottom of this post there is a picture of a sign they had that I thought was very inspiring.