Tag Archives: Innovation

The Onward Journey

Here’s one blog post that I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life…

Let’s get to the bottomline first. The bottomline is that — Onward Research + Innovation is now closing operations! Yup, I am winding up the business!!

Why?
I have found an opportunity to do the same kind of work on a larger platform. Professionally, this is an opportunity for me to up the level of the game that I initiated at Onward, and to learn a lot more about how to run a business (and probably a million other things). And at a personal level, (obviously) this made sense for me from a financial stability point of view as well.

So, what’s this new opportunity?
I am moving to Mindscape, the strategic consumer insights division of Technopak. Technopak, as you maybe aware, is a management consulting company started up by Arvind Singhal in 1991. Mindscape was formed couple of years ago (approximately) and has been doing a lot of interesting work in the area of consumer insights & innovation.

I saw huge synergies in thinking & vision, in their approach to consumer insights & innovation consulting by adopting non-traditional ways – using ethnography, design research, observational studies, participatory design, etc. Given my background and passion (for this kind of work) and their approach, it didn’t take too long before I felt the right kind of chemistry with the Mindscape & Technopak management team.

So, what will I be doing at Mindscape?
My official title will be ‘Associate Vice President’ and my charter is to lead one of Mindscape’s new offerings, “Innovation & Design Insights”. While the actual work on the ground will not be very different from what we were doing at Onward, but being part of a larger outfit like Mindscape will allow us to take on larger assignments, work with better access to resources, and of course bring lots of other obvious advantages of working in a larger establishment.

What happens to my team?
My team (of 2 wonderful, hardworking & highly committed professionals) – Samrat Nawle and Ranjit Singh are moving with me and will be part of my team at Mindscape. They tell me they are quite happy & excited about this big change as well (though Ranjit did take a little longer to initially digest the news considering all this happened just 2 months after he joined Onward & started his non-academic career!!)! 😉

Where are we going to be based out of?
Bangalore, as always. The Mindscape office in in the heart of Bangalore city, 11th floor in UB City on Vittal Mallya Road (yes, overlooking Vijay Mallya’s plush mansion next door)!

How was the journey for me? Did I learn & grow in the process?
Oh YES, BIG TIME! The journey was a roller coaster ride (that’s the best analogy I can think of right now). Like an entrepreneur once told me, “The Highs are High, the Lows are Low”. 🙂 It has been THE most challenging, confronting, exciting, crazy, weird, intense 2 years of my life.

Needless to say, a decision like this isn’t made overnight (heck, it took around 4 months with several sleepless nights!) and isn’t an easy decision for an entrepreneur! I consulted and took feedback from my Advisors/Mentors and several other entrepreneur-friends. And at the end of all that, what matters is that I feel good about this choice. I feel complete about what I have accomplished AND even what I did not accomplish, as an entrepreneur in these last 2 years. 🙂

So, what did I learn in the process?
I actually feel overwhelmed when I think about all those million little and big things I’ve learned in this time. Will definitely write up a separate blog post to do justice to those million things. Stay tuned.

Ok, now that I’m done with answering all these questions…

I have several dozen folks who I need to thank (yes, acceptance speech coming up). Again, stay tuned for a separate detailed post on that one. And finally, this blog will continue. The Fly On The Wall lives on, though probably on a different domain name (need to figure that one).

Thanks for reading, sharing and being (directly/indrectly a part of) the most exciting 2 years of my life. Cheers…

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Voice SMS – wrong audience?

The Airtel Voice SMS ad (below) is now being regularly aired on most Indian TV channels.

I found it surprising that Airtel seems to be targeting this service at the middle or the top layers of the socio-economic pyramid. Given the general perception that those in the ‘Base of the Pyramid‘ are more likely to need and use voice-based features on mobile phones, I’d have thought Airtel would go after the BoP audience (probably in addition to other segments). It’d be interesting to test this service with BoP users and see whether they’d take to it.

On another note…

Is this also an attempt at changing the typical Indian phone usage behaviour — the innate unwillingness to use voice mail on phones (I’ve heard various theories on this one, will save that for a different post)? It’s still early days, but I still don’t see any sign of a dramatic change in that behaviour!

Also, I realized there is a basic usability issue with the way one has to record the voice message. To send a voice message, one has to dial * and then the number.  Which means, I can’t use the “Contacts” on my phone to send a voice message!! And given how dependent we are now on our Contacts, this is so unusable!

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.

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]onwardresearch.com or please leave a comment here).

MIT’s competition for paper on India’s urbanization

MIT’s running a competition for a research paper on India’s urbanization

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Institute for Financial Management and Research are jointly organizing an international competition for the best research paper on innovative responses to India’s urban challenges. The purpose of this competition is to highlight usually overlooked cases of innovation and success in response to rapid urbanization. Additional support for this competition is provided by the MIT-India Program.