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Sunday, December 13, 2009

What's common between Aravind Eye Care & Rocket Singh movie

Hi there everybody...

Now what is common between Aravind Eye Care & a new Hindi feature film Rocket Singh.
I recently saw the talk of Thulasiraj Ravilla from Aravind & also happen to catch Rocket Singh.
Happen to notice things which were very similar in both of them.
Here are the common points :

  • Having a Sense of Purpose
  • Being User Centric
  • Having a Passion to excel
  • Persistence to face challenges & Innovate
  • Challenging the current industry mindset

I believe both of these are unique case studies in Design Thinking. Below is the talk Thulasiraj Ravilla from Aravind eye care recently being posted on TED. For Rocket Singh you can catch the movie at a theatre near you.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Opportunity amidst underperformers

"Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."—Warren Buffett

I guess the quote by the great man says it all. Mtv & Ipod, both were born during recessions. What is it that make some people view a difficult situation as an opportunity while to others it’s a dead end. We all have heard of the glass half full & half empty expression signifying optimism to some while others being pessimist by it.

So where am I heading:

Check this out. If you look at it, the general tendency of most business channels, newspapers, magazines is to discuss sectors & companies which are growing & promise to offer better returns. In short, such sectors/ companies offer returns which can be reaped.

Hang on…. but what about the companies which are in declining sectors & are being looked as unattractive. Do they offer any opportunity.

Let s take an example of Circus Du Soleil. In a time when the circus industry was being looked as an unattractive industry with a wide variety of alternative entertainment options (TV, playstation, multiplexes) available, Circus Du Soleil re-wrote the rules of the game. Inshort it made circus cool again.

So whats the point.

I think Industries/sectors/companies which are not performing well or are being written off offer a greater incentive & opportunity to Innovate & re write the rules. I think the problem is not that people don’t need goods & services of companies which are not doing well but in most case it’s the conflict in the alignment of whats the company is offering & what people wants. Through Integrative & Design thinking one can relook the value that is being desired & what the company can offer & thus think of models which satisfy human needs &rewrite the rules.




Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Hi everybody

Writing in after a long time..........

So what i have been upto.......

Well been to my hometown in Delhi. Its been around 4 years since I have been staying away (Mumbai & Pune) from my hometown. In past couple of years, I have had the privilege to experience different cultures of these two cities (Mumbai & Pune) which I find are quite distinct as compared to Delhi.

Immediately after landing on Delhi airport, I felt a change in culture. Although it wasn't alien to me as Delhi is my hometown, but somehow I felt certain change in the environment, sounds, behavior.

I started thinking about culture & began to ponder over questions like

- What constitutes a culture of a city/company.

- Can we define culture of a city/company.

- Is it possible to recreate the culture of the city/company.

Although I am still finding answers to the above, but I truly believe that culture of a company/city play an important role in deciding its success. While on a visit to Toyota's factory in Japan, I noticed their culture embracing user centricity & continuous improvement. One of the senior manager of Mattel once told me that it is culture that differentiates the good & great companies.

But how cultures are created & for that matter what constitutes a culture.

I think culture of city/company originates from a Purpose. Some call it vision but i think its the purpose which clearly shapes the culture of the company/city.

A company whose purpose will be to Innovate & bring new products/services will have a very different culture from the one focused on efficiency.

I guess HR managers pay a lot of attention in developing & harnessing a culture of their company which is aligned to their company's purpose.

But can we analyse a culture of a city/company.

Ethnographic research provide excellent tools for analyzing culture of a city/company & determining whether it is aligned to the purpose.

Some of the areas in which I think one would want to analyze a culture :

- Post merger/acquisition inorder to align cultures of two companies

- Company undertaking a new vision

- City, wanting to bring social change & improve image

I think culture is an important aspect of city/company & the right culture can channelize the energies of people to fulfill the higher purpose.

Got this ad of HSBC describing importance of understanding different cultures. Check it out.



Video Source:

Photo Source:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Competing in Commoditized Market- Learnings from Indian Fruit & Vegetable Market

Hi Everybody

Recently couple of my friends & I visited the local fruits & vegetable market (picture above).

One of the Interesting thing I noted there was that the fruits & vegetable market (pic above) somewhat reflected the same condition prevalent in any other sector (Aviation, Retail etc) with many sellers selling homogenous products which are commoditized. Now of course the scenario of a Perfect Competition in the fruits & vegetable market is slightly more as compared to being present in other sectors due to advertising & branding efforts being used in other sectors to differentiate.

But this got me thinking..............

If you look at it, as a customer when I visit to the fruits & vegetable market, I am not dedicated to one vendor (as there are many sellers & everybody is selling the same thing). Since there are many vendor, as a buyer I can negotiate the price to a very large extent. I look for quality, but almost all sellers have quality fruits & vegetables.

Then the big question is:

How does vendors in the fruits & vegetable market differentiate themselves (remember everybody is selling the same thing with no branding/packaging)

I spent couple of hours trying to understand how do these vendors differentiate themselves & attract customers.

Here are some of the observations:

Being Different ('stall design')- As people passed from one fruit stall to another, I noticed that they tend to stop at stalls which were designed differently from others. It may be product placement/ certain items being kept. Notice in the below picture a stall is designed using decorative bulbs & shiny disco balls!!!. Notice how the products are cut & displayed.

At Vendor's cost- Haggling is a way of life in India. I guess in India we tend to be satisfied when we have gained something at vendor's cost. I think vendors understand this & they are pretty smart at instead of keeping a fixed price policy, they offer high prices & let the buyer negotiate. After some hard bargaining they finally sell items generating a profit at the same time providing a feeling to the buyer of having gained something at vendor's cost.

Reflecting Freshness- People look for freshness & quality when buying fruits & vegetables. In order to ensure the items on display reflect these, the vendors sprinkled water on them to generate a feeling of freshness. Water also ensured removal of dust from the items.

Generating a feeling of limited time availability- I get a feeling that the fear of loosing out on good deal adds a reason for the buyer to buy something. Similar thing was observed in the fruits & vegetable market. Vendors told buyers of the limited time availability, seasonal effect, limited stock. The idea was to generate a feeling of limited availability so that buyers fear of loosing out on good deals & can buy.

Now if you look at it, the Fruits & Vegetable market is not a scenario that any company would like to be in (as it is a highly commoditized market, a state of Perfect competition, no investment on branding & advertising methods to differentiate). Still the vendors who are operating in this market understands nitties gritties of Indians & Indian Culture so well that they have successfully integrated their understanding into their business to earn a profit. I believe companies/industry sectors (OEM's, FMCG etc) can learn so much from these sellers about India, Indian consumer & how to compete in commoditized market.



Photo Source: Girish

Monday, September 14, 2009

Age of Innovation

Hi Everyone

Recently I wrote an article as a guest blogger on the Importance of Innovation in Indian context for (among Top Ten Indian Business Blogs).

Here is a link to the same. Check it out.



Photo Source:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Problem Framing

Hi everyone
Now, Problem Framing is one of the core tools of design thinking.
But I wanted to know more about the same.
I got these two videos by Institute of Design explaining the concept of Problem framing in design by giving examples.
Check them out.

Also you may want to check out my previous article on Framing. (



Friday, September 4, 2009

Design Challenge for India

Hi Everyone.
Recently I visited Mumbai. While we crossed the bridge, admiring the engineering marvel, couple of us started discussing that the transition from being a developing country to a developed country has finally happened for India. As we went ahead, we noticed lot of people standing in the middle of the road & amidst a huge traffic Jam.
An accident had taken place a while back of a motorcyclist. The rider was lying unconscious in the middle of the road with many people surrounding him. Apprantley it turned out that people were ready to help but did'nt know what to do. Luckily after a while a lady doctor who was crossing the scene, stopped by & helped. It turned out that the motorcyclist had a fracture too. After a while he was taken to the hospital.

Healthcare it seems is one of the biggest design challenge that India faces at present. 'What to do' when a person is faced with an accident/ medical emergencies. How can every Indian be educated in basic first aid knowledge of handling emergencies. How can we turn Ignorance into Empowerment that can save someone else life when every seconds count. What businesses can emerge in this field.

I think everyone (especially Design thinkers) should take notice of this problem & provide ways to turn Ignorance into empowerment.

Photosource: Self

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Learning from being a DJ

Hi Everyone,

Just started a small course in learning how to be a DJ.

It’s been a while since I first started listening to Trance, house & other similar kind of music.

While playing at the class, a thought came to my mind……what can managers learn from a DJ?

Have made couple of observations on what we can learn from a DJ:

1. Always look from your audience perspective - Great DJs seem to be masters in knowing what kind of audience they are facing & what type of music they will prefer (although the audience may not be able to express what they want). Great DJs s seems to know that it may not be what they like but what music their audience prefers that matters. They always seem to think in terms of what their audience want & seem to use their talent to play accordingly. (Lesson to be learnt- Understand latent needs of your customer & mould your capabilities in offering the same).

2. Give your audience a reason- A reason to party, a reason to come together & meet friends, a reason to listen to good music & leave worries. (Lesson to be learnt- what reason you are giving your customer to pick your product/service)

3. Being a Performer- I have noticed that great DJ's don't just play music but they perform . Also, they seem to become part of their audience. (Lesson to be learnt- How can your Target audience may welcome you/your product to be a part of their lifestyle, what type of emotional elements you need to infuse in your brand/product/service to be welcomed by your target group into their lives).

4. Another point I have noticed is that after every event the audience feels ecstatic & also asks that the DJ should carry on playing for hours. (lesson to be learnt-How can your product/service generate that kind happiness among its Target Audience in a way that they ask more of your product/service. Imagine customer happiness leading to Pull sales which means no advertising effort required)

5. Having Followers & building a community- Great Dj’s have huge number of followers who many times promote their events, albums, etc. They set up platform where Fans form communities linking like minded people & giving them a purpose to enjoy & educate about great music. (Lesson to be learnt- Is your brand/product/service having followers who buy, adore & promote your brand/product/service without being asked for. Are you giving them a purpose that they can relate to & start a movement)

6. And just one more point -they always seems to experiment, Innovate & thus Create.

Think about it while enjoying some great music.



Photo Source: Taken by my friend Girish

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cross Pollinators

Hi everybody

One of the key skills of design thinkers is to Cross Pollinate/ draw insights from various disciplines & comeup with Innovative ideas. Ideo calls its people to be T shaped people, who enjoy a breadth of knowledge in many fields but also have depth in atleast one area of expertise. One of the benefits what I have felt working with these kind of people is that they seem to look at a problem from various perpectives at the same time draw insights from various unrelated fields. They think in metaphors & see relationships across disciplines.
Janine Benyus recently gave a talk at TED Global about Biomimicry in action by highlighting various examples about what we can learn from nature in solving design problems.

Have a look at this amazing talk.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hate Something...Think Different....Change something

Think Different- That's what all of them in the picture above did & were featured in the Apple's famous campaign. What difference does it make when you think different? I guess the only difference is that you will in your own way change the world by contributing something.

From Tata nano to the Supply chain model of Dabbawalla all of them have thought differently & thus are recognized globally.

But from where does the Inspiration to think differently comes from. I guess it comes from a Purpose & from where does the purpose comes from. Your purpose may come from when you Hate something so bad that it becomes your purpose to change something.

Have a look at the following ad of Honda talking about the same philosophy of Hating something & changing something.

Many companies are trying to make a change by thinking Different. D light is a solar powered lighting company that came out of Stanford D School. The company adopts design thinking philosophy & has the purpose of providing light for 100 million products by 2020. The company operates in India, China & East Africa.

Dr. Venkataswamy had a purpose to eliminate needless blindness & thus he set up Aravind which today is the largest & most productive eye care facility in the world. Have a look at his story. Also note how he drew example from Mc Donald's & wanted to set up franchisee based system for eye hospital (Cross Disciplinary learning- one of the key skills of a Design Thinker).

TV commercials by Idea Mobile (cellular service in India) also talks about thinking different & briniging a change. check out the following commercial highlighting the power of Mobile telephony to address the socially relevant theme of education in India & how we can teach more students with the same number of teachers available.

Recently Michael Pritchard gave a talk at TED GLOBAL about his Lifesaver filter which he created with a purpose of providing filthy water drinkable to everyone, anytime, anywhere. Have a look at his talk in which he highlight that by having a purpose & thinking different he was able to create lifesaver filter. Have a look.

So in short Hate something, have a Purpose, Think Different & Change something




Sunday, August 2, 2009

Empathy & being User Centric

Hi all

Below is a diagram featuring two kinds of business systems. Have a look and before reading any further determine which kind of system you prefer.

Ok... the first system starts from the User- his/her needs, desires, emotions, wants being converted into products/services& business created around it. In the second, the business assess its capability, produces something & then finds a way to fit into users life.

In the first system, the focus is always the User & the objective of business is to find his/her latent need which can be fulfilled. The approach of this kind of system is being EMPATHETIC. Each & every employee in this system is empathetic towards the needs & wants of user.

The second system starts with the focus on Business capabilities giving rise to products & then it start looking for a consumer. The approach followed here is to hard sell to POTENTIAL user.

The first one based on Empathetic approach leads to discovery of Insights which provide new Ideas leading to Products which users actually want & Love.

The second one demands higher marketing costs which inturn increases product/service costs being offered without the guarantee that user will buy it.

DUDE enough of Management Fundas....come to the point ...

Ok….Be EMPATHETIC & User Centric… because it provides ideas for Innovation leading to success & what user wants.

An Eg:

Below is a photo of a restaurant near my place which is operated by Multinational Company. Most of the Sundays are like this with people waiting outside. I myself waited once for One & half hours to get in. Many people do not wait & after some time leave & the staff seems to not care because the place is already full.

By being Empathetic towards these potential customers (they want to have food from this place & enjoy the evening)...the restaurant can sure think of ideas wherein these customers can also be served.

Consider this from a business point of view, each time a person leaves after waiting for sometime, there is loss of a Potential sale.

So what Ideas can we think of……..

-How about making the whole situation in a fun way.....Give free drinks to people waiting for more than 15 minutes. (Show that their time is also Important & we care)

-How about Introducing a Sunday only Meet the stranger concept wherein strangers share a table so that no seat remains empty, making a way to optimize space problem at the same time connect with total strangers. Add some Ice breaker concepts.

- Delete all the non value added activities from the system.....take orders from those while they are waiting to remove ordering time while the person is in. Fasten the bill & taking money process.

- Acknowledge each waiting customer & thank them that they have come to their place & are waiting. A simple & sincere thanks can go a long way ensuring loyalty from customers.

- Give discounts on takeaway on Sunday so that people order for take away’s & don’t have to come at the store itself.

That’s It……..come on…u can think of some more ideas.

I believe this is just a start… giving serious consideration to the needs of these people, I m sure we can think of Ideas which can serve the user’s purpose to have food & also serve Business purpose of not loosing any customer coming to the place.

Barry Schwartz gave a TED talk on Practical Wisdom highlighting how Hospital Janitors went out of their way , showed empathy towards patients & relatives to satisfy their unarticulated need. I think it all start & end by being Consumer Centric which I believe is the root of Innovation……have a look at the Inspiring Video.



Video Source:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Indian Grassroot Innovations

A question just came to my mind.

Is 'Necessity the mother of all Innovations!!!'.

I mean we all have heard of Innovation processes of large blue chip companies which hire people from crème de la crème Institutes who work to solve problems with the objective to find the next growth path for company or solve economic & society issues.

But what exactly motivates a common man to come up with an Innovative Idea? What Motivates him/her to create something new with bare minimum resources? What makes them to persevere even after many failures?

Do they have the need to change things which makes them to carry on & Innovate.

Below are some of the many, many examples from India wherein common people have Innovated & changed things at the same time creating a possibility to set up new entrepreneurial Indian Ventures.


Check out the following Videos of INDIAN INNOVATORS. Also check out the National Innovation Foundation providing institutional support in scouting, spawning, sustaining and scaling up grassroots innovations and helping their transition to self supporting activities.

What can we do to make these unique Ideas into a profitable & sustaining businesses & unlock their massive values?

Some of the colleges like Welingkar Institute of Management have already started this process (of which I was part of, while I was in Welingkar) of providing marketing & business knowledge assistance & are developing business concepts/models.

Here are the Videos

More Videos on Youtube. Type Indian Innovators




Photo source: by Primus D'Mello