How design can drive the market

By Preeti Mehra

(This is part of the article that appeared on The Hindu on 6/24/02. For full article, 

It is the design features that make or break a product. Unfortunately, in India, the potential of design is yet to be fully utilised. It is in this scenario that the launch of a permanent display centre for design in New Delhi gains significance.

To involve the corporate world and take design beyond the walls of NID, the institute has been negotiating with various companies to associate themselves through consultancy and industry projects with the Design Satellite Centres that the Industry Programmes and Projects division has set up. The satellite centres concept will help NID reach out to other cities such as Delhi, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Bangalore and Kochi to spread design expertise and awareness.

“Indian industry, till now, has been used to borrowing design from abroad. Very few know the worth of using design as an investment. While people do not mind spending on technology, few understand the importance of the end product. But now with a strict patent regime and the need for building competitive advantage in the globalised scenario industry is slowly recognising the importance of research and development in design,” says Vyas.

He gives the example of the Ultra wet grinder that has saved households hours and hours of hard labour.

In great demand in South Indian homes where `idlis‘ and `dosas‘ are everyday food items, the Elgi Utra Grind was an effort to make the noisy, floor-standing, tilting, electric wet grinder into a more efficient and quieter table top model. The brief for the designers was to use industrial design to transform the engineering prototype of the grinder from a contraption to a user-friendly appliance. What came of the designing effort was a product that had the blend of traditional materials and modern processes.

Not only was Elgi’s Ultra a roaring success, but it spawned an industry of look-alikes. The next development was a more compact model for smaller kitchens with fitted furniture.

This model is so well thought out that it has a lid that may be opened and swivelled to avoid overhead kitchen cabinets. “The product is so useful, it can even be exported for the NRI market,” points out Vyas.

However, Showcase Design is not where NID’s involvement with design ends. Dr Koshy as well as Vyas talk about the pressing need for a National Design Policy, for which the institute has already forwarded an approach paper to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. They also moot the idea of a National Design Council and a Good Design Selection System to give the design movement that has begun more speed and a big boost.

Some of the corporate logos designed by NID.