Category Archives: Innovation

Event report (Understanding the Logic of Consumer India)

Here’s my post-event summarization & ramblings on last week’s TiE event, Understanding the Logic of Consumer India:

But, before that, a random observation during tea-break: Majority of the glasses that were used for drinking water, had around 20% of drinking water remaining in each of the glasses (sorry, wasn’t carrying my camera with me that day)! On the sustainability side, that’s around 20% of the drinking water that the five-star hotel buys going to a waste. And on the business side, the hotel is spending 20% more than they should be!

Anyways, onto the event notes:

  • Thankfully it wasn’t a powerpoint-presentation oriented event. It was an informal, open discussion facilitated by Vinita Bali. The topics that were discussed ranged from…predictable questions like, why she wrote the book, “We’re like that only!”…to interesting debates around…do businesses (especially entrepreneurs, given the fact it was a TiE event) really need to understand what their consumers’ needs are before going-to-market (this question did become a strong point of discussion among several in the audience)…to how do you know whether “that” is really the consumer’s need…to how one should spend time observing consumers at the point-of-sale/usage…to whether Reliance has got their retail business model correct or not (?), etc.
  • Scarcity & Abundance: I forget whether it was Vinita or Rama who made a very subtle, yet powerful & interesting point about how Indians are fundamentally oriented towards (or come from) scarcity rather than abundance. The context to this discussion was around the need for competition in the market, without which a business can pretty much do whatever it wishes (without taking into account consumers’ needs) and many times, get away with it.
    Vinita/Rama made the point that Indians have traditionally been shy of competition because there is a tendency to believe that, if there is competition, then one’s share of the pie is at stake. And that comes from the cultural background where Indians are so oriented towards scarcity rather than abundance…meaning, there’s this nagging worry/feeling that…what’s there, isn’t enough for everyone.
  • Do businesses really need to understand consumer’s needs: A question was put forth about why businesses don’t want to, don’t like to spend too much time/effort/money on understanding the consumer’s needs. Several people had varied (also, weird) responses to that.
    My take (or hypothesis):

    1. Most of the folks who run businesses are usually the left-brain-thinking, logic-oriented folks. That doesn’t mean they don’t use their right-side at all…it’s probably relatively underutilized when it comes to making business decisions.
      And, why that’s significant is…understanding & decoding consumer’s needs, I think, requires a considerable amount of right-brain-thinking (in addition to the left-brain as well)….which they would much rather not deal with, because it seems to be so “hard to get”.
      And that’s probably why the general attitude towards end-user research has been of “Let’s-do-it-when-we-have-the-time-and-money”. Thankfully, not all clients think that way and people like me do end up putting our right-brain-thinking to good use.
    2. The other side of the coin: Researchers haven’t done a good (enough) job of translating research findings into tangible/measurable business recommendations or solutions. World-over, there seems to be (in my experience) an innate skepticism that research just ends up in a report that one files away, hardly ever to use one’s business decisions. So, researchers need to start talking business and the language of business to be able to really deliver the value that research often promises.
  • While making a point during the discussion, one of the women in the audience talked about a conversation she once had with the store manager of one of the large (departmental/lifestyle) stores in Bangalore. The store manager said that only 40% of the store was allocated to women’s products and almost 60% was for men! The logic being that, women don’t actually buy as much as they spend so much time at the store!!!
  • On a related note…and this I don’t recall so clearly…there was also a point about how some (traditional) business practices & approaches are so different in different parts of the world. In India, the conventional approach to pricing coffee would be to charge more for coffee with sugar (‘coz you’re having to spend on more sugar). But in the west, the practice is to charge more for diet drinks!
  • Unlike most other TiE events (in Bangalore) that I’ve attended, this seemed to have the least participation from the techie crowd. There seemed to be several CEOs and heads of small-medium-enterprises in the crowd. Does it indicate the lack of interest among the techies about creating user-centered products & services? I guess that’s too harsh a conclusion to draw, but this phenomena didn’t seem like something to not make note of.
  • The discussion (especially between the audience and the panelists) kept going back to the unresolved issue about connectivity to the new Bangalore airport that’s coming up in March 2008. One had to be there to experience the irritation, anger, frustration and complete resignation about the state of (infrastructure) affairs, surrounding the connectivity to the new airport.
    Of course, Rama did touch upon the fact that there are people who actually get to benefit from such poor connectivity or infrastructure, the cellphone companies to start with. If you aren’t getting to the airport on time or are even avoiding the travel, chances are you’re using the good ol’ phone to communicate with your business associates or your near & dear ones! Interesting.


Events on Feb 23

Couple of interesting events on Saturday, Feb 23:

  1. TiE hosts a discussion on ‘Understanding the Logic of Consumer India’ between Rama Bijapurkar and Vinita Bali | Venue: Taj Residency, Bangalore | Date: Feb 23, 2008 | Time: 10:00am to 12:30pm
    Rama Bijapurkar, has of course been in the news recently for her book, “We’re like that only” (interestingly, I read somewhere that the title of the book outside India is different…and that did seem like a wise move, considering those not from India wouldn’t get the concept of “We’re like that only!”).
    I bought Rama’s book a month ago but haven’t got around to reading it yet. Given we’re in a similar profession of understanding consumers’ needs in India, I’m really looking forward to this event.
  2. iCamp (the BarCamp for Innovation) | Venue: MindTree campus (Bangalore) | Date: Feb 23, 2008 | Time: 10am
    After the huge success of BarCamps in Bangalore, now it’s the turn of ‘Innovation Camps’. Interesting idea. Looking forward to an ‘unconference’ concept being extended to Innovation.

IxDA conference presentations

IxDA conference presentations are here now:

There’s an interesting presentation by Sajid Sayed (an ex-colleague who now works at Philips Design in India) about a new interaction design model for personal infotainment devices. Take a look: 

Design Summit in Bangalore: Day 1 update

This year the CII-NID Design Summit‘s in Bangalore. Just got back from Day 1.

Met with several interesting people (some for the first time)…Kevin Schmidt & Uday Dandavate from SonicRim, Tom Burchard from Continuum, Sudhir Sharma from Elephant (who announced their 6-week old partnership with RKS, which is an interesting development for the design industry in India to keep an eye on).

Other notes:

  • Ravi Sawhney spoke about his trademark ‘Psycho-Aesthetics‘ approach to product design. And what’s even more interesting, Psycho-Aesthetics is being taught at Harvard Business School. Very cool.
  • RKS Guitars…an interesting coming together of design & music.
  • For the umpteenth conference in the recent past, a ‘panel discussion’ ends up being a session where half a dozen ‘panelists’ are sitting up there on the stage and one of them go upto the podium and deliver a 15-20 minute presentation, most often a blatant pitch about their design firm…and worse, a presentation that has zero correlation with the one who presented earlier. So, where’s the “panel discussion” then? (Only Dilip Chabria seemed to be peeved about this phenomena…my sympathies with him…he actually didn’t have a PPT ‘coz he actually thought it was going to be a “panel discsussion”)! 😉

Looking forward to the break-out sessions and few interesting discussions tomorrow, like Fitch’s presentation…(Fitch has started up in Bombay and one of their first projects for the Aditya Birla Group is already Live in the stores) and the panel discussion about “Thriving in the competitive marketplace with design” with the big names, Kishore Biyani and Bruce Nussbaum. More updates by Friday….

Upcoming in Nov/Dec

Next couple of months seem to be jam packed with events, many of which I plan on attending*. Here’s a quick summary…

  1. *Nov 15, 16: TiE-ISB Connect, Hyderabad
  2. Nov 16, 16: India Innovation Conference: 2nd Conclave on Innovation and its ecology, New Delhi
  3. *Nov 17, 18: Bar Camp 5, Bangalore
  4. *Nov 30: World Usability Day at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad (I’ll be speaking at this event; details to be finalised, but the topic will ‘Design Research’ related). Among other things, I’m looking forward to visiting ISB’s awesome campus.
  5. *Dec 12, 13: CII-NID Design Summit: “Leadership Through Design”, Bangalore

If you know of other interesting events, related with Innovation/Design/Entrepreneurship/Research, please do let me know (email param[at] or please leave a comment here).

Yahoo’s driving directions in India

First, it was RouteGuru. Now, Yahoo India has launched driving directions, with the added bonus of “auto fares” for that route! Sounds cool. But the reality…

I searched for the route from Old Madras Road to Cunningham Road. The good news is that Landmark-based driving directions (which RouteGuru kick started few months ago) seems to work as well as they do on RouteGuru.


But, here are couple of issues to be resolved:

  • The “auto fare” is far from reality. For the above route that I looked up, the “auto fare” displayed is Rs. 45!!! That was probably the fare several years ago!!
  • The results also show the time it’s supposed to take for that route. And, going by the results here, it’s supposed to take me 25 minutes to get there. Yeah, right! Probably on a Sunday, when the whole city’s under curfew! 😉

Anyways, sarcasm aside, I thought the “auto fares” feature is a really good idea. But, it’s got to be implemented with a reality-check. You can’t release this feature without having tested it thoroughly with real-life data.

Interestingly, I can see this feature working very differently in a city like Chennai. For those unfamiliar with Chennai’s infamous auto drivers, they don’t use the meter at all…it’s just a “flat rate”, depending on their mood or state of mind at that moment! So, as & when the Yahoo “auto fares” feature is updated with more realistic auto fares, this could probably be used by those in Chennai to figure out what’s the bargaining benchmark, especially for those who’re new to the city!

With regards to the “Time” mentioned for each route, this is quite redundant, unless integrated with a real-time traffic monitoring system like MapUnity‘s BTIS application. Maybe it’s on the cards…who knows, but until then it’s quite a pointless, even misleading feature.

Job Opening: Business Development Head/Manager at Onward Research

Job Opening: Business Development Head/Manager at Onward Research:
The role of a Business Development Head/Manager is to drive the customer acquisition process by identifying and creating opportunities with potential clients. This role will also require working closely with the management team in defining, refining and meeting the overall company/business goals & targets.

He/She will need to be highly proficient in engaging with CXOs, Product Managers, Marketing Managers, Operational Heads, etc. of top organizations; understanding their business needs/challenges and translating these into research projects that would add value to their business.

We are looking for highly talented, skilled and passionate individuals who would drive the growth of this company. More than the qualifications, we’re looking for the passion and excitement to grow a startup company, that is breaking new ground in user research in India.

About Onward:
Onward Research + Consulting is a user research consulting organisation based in Bangalore, India. Our vision is to empower and enable organisations in developing highly usable, effective and innovative products/services for their end-users.

We use observational research techniques to identify unmet and unarticulated needs of users, leading to deep insights for our customer’s business. In the few months since we started up, we have been working on exciting projects for technology, mobile, retail and healthcare organisations that deliver products/services in India.

Please email your resume to jobs(at), specifying ‘Business Development Head/Manager’ in the ‘Subject’ of the email.