The first session of the first day at the ninth CII Design Summit had speakers from across businesses talking about the relevance of design in business, both for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and other organisations.
The floor was opened by session chairperson and speaker, BVR Mohan Reddy, ex chairperson, CII, SR and CMD Infotech. Coming from an engineering company, he did not hesitate to admit that engineering encompasses design - be it manufacturing design, process design or even support services.
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He emphasised that the Infotech-United Technologies partnership was strong and successful due to the continuous innovation that was permitted. "In design and collaboration, trust, commitment and innovation are at the heart of new opportunities and partnership," he added.
India is at an inflexion point of transformation - moving on from simply being a support to turning into a strategic partner, from being a provider of services to being a consumer of products. There is a need for constant innovation as the country is at the heart of greater consumption and competition.
Peter Kersten, BNO ambassador and past president, BNO, Netherlands, began with his view on design, saying that he considers design as a (creative) management consultancy service in order to realise pre-agreed objectives in terms of money (reduce production costs), time (reduce time to market, be first to market), identity (improve reputation of company brand, product brand or organisation brand) and social relevance (sustainability, social causes and inclusive design).
He said that this is relevant for all areas of design, including visual communication, product/industrial, spatial/interior and even interaction/new media.
With regard to India being a powerhouse of design, he said that the country is probably on its way but needs much more financial and organisational support. He suggested creating bodies such as an Indian design association for better co-operation and growth of design as a whole. It could look after the interests, advancement and service quality of the design community. He cited the instance of Korea, which receives funding from industry and the government.
He also stressed on accelerating international collaboration; collaborating for the common good, reducing competition between bodies such as CII and FICCI, and Kyoorius Exchange and CII; creating one credible design hub; and daring to choose and research, bring out and nurture India's own commonly accepted unique design language. He added that now is the time to do something about design and there is no time to lose.
John Heskett, chair professor, Hong Kong Polytechnic University of Design, based his presentation on a preliminary report of research carried out on how SMEs in the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta are using design. He brought out examples of several groups for successful industrial designs. These included Guangzhou Echom Science & Technology Group Co. (research, development and manufacturing in plastic products and moulds), Canbo Electronics Company (producing automotive and agricultural spare parts, kitchen appliances, electromagnetic ovens and electric cookers), Guangdone Tonze Electric Co. (specialising in household electronic and electrical products) and the Hinglee Group (furniture design, production and sales in China).
Heskett suggested that there is a need to integrate design with other disciplines such as engineering and marketing. It is better to choose designers who are creative business professionals.
Hari Nair, director, global consumer design, Whirlpool was sure that Whirlpool's products are the manifestation of the corporate DNA. "Design is what separates good brands from great brands. Design is indeed corporate strategy visualised. It has everything to do with the emotional content," he said.
Giving instances of the products from the Whirlpool range - the Mastermind refrigerator (based on craftsmanship strategy), 3-door refrigerators (launched in China to build cultural connect), Genius (designed for masses in India and striking emotional connect), the easy-to-use Whitemagic 1-2-3 washing machine and Professional Sport (ultimate in fabric care, inspired from the sports gear with a differentiated aesthetic) - where designs for specific reasons have had a major role to play.
Tim Selders, director, Park Advanced Design Management, the Netherlands, brought out the words of Tom Watson Jr., former chief executive officer, IBM, who had said 'Good design is good business'.
Selders brought out how Bugaboo completed 10 years with 800 employees - priced at a premium, but took a lot of developmental time and could not focus on innovation. He spoke about the brand also in context of how, as an SME, it found place for design for its products. He added that the Tata Nano and the Mac Book Light are fantastic design-based creations.
Ricardo Chiva and Joaquin Alegre expressed their views in Product Innovation Management, 2009, "Companies that manage design effectively and efficiently, attain better performance than those that do not."
Alpana Parida, president, DMA took the audience back to the last 50 years of the design industry in the country. She said that design in India was essentially about handicrafts. She brought out the instance of jewellery design in India, wherein design - something which needs to be focused upon first - is not done that way. She also spoke about detachable jewellery, with women wanting to break up heavy jewellery into various pieces.
"Not that detachable jewellery wasn't around - it just did not find its place at the right time," she added.
She also spoke about the Indian salwar kameez, which became a design in itself out of pure accident. "If it would have been planned consciously, we're sure it wouldn't have got that right!" she exclaimed.
Almost all speakers insisted on having a body that looks after the interest of the design fraternity, as well as building stronger bonds between Indian and international companies. Quality regulation was another point that was focused upon at the day's session.