My final comments on a Twitter discussion about design & India focused startups


Here’s the starting point of the discussion on Twitter:

Just to summarize my thought: the original referenced article talked about design being a key pillar of a startup. My contention is that that is a developed market centric view which should be applied carefully to India focused startups. It is first more important to understand the consumer’s concerns & see how design fits in there. Saying that the design sense of the Indian consumer is “not evolved” is saying that consumers haven’t yet caught up – that’s wrong. It is not the consumer’s job to “catch up”, it is the job of a company to understand what are the drivers of earning the consumer’s business. Design has become such an important differentiator in developed markets because consumer does not have issues of systemic trust.

None of this is suggesting that design is not important. But as entrepreneurs we need to allocate capital and resources correctly and figuring which problems are the biggest drivers is critical to that exercise. Design, IMHO, comes after trust has been earned, after operations are smooth … it is not a 1st order concern.

Sense of aesthetics is also fundamentally affected by surroundings: garbage on the roads, construction everywhere; the average consumer’s desire in India is just to have things work and be clean. Aesthetics is not yet a mass concern. Think of the online banking site of any Indian bank – from global standards of UI/UX they are horrible. In fact the one I use (large well known bank) is downright buggy and randomly logs me out. This has not been fixed in over 6 years; 6-long-years! You’d think this would be the death knell for the bank. But they have retail locations everywhere, they advertise heavily and for an average consumer that solves the first order problem: this bank will not run away with my money or go down tomorrow.

Take a look at these two great posts that came up in the Twitter discussion:

In short: when doing business in Rome, study Rome.


4 thoughts on “My final comments on a Twitter discussion about design & India focused startups

  1. I would argue that good design is NOT just about aesthetics. Its about getting the “operations smooth”. But then that’s my definition of Design.

    Design has become a broad term and means different things to different people. I can think of 5 perspectives:
    Design as aesthetics
    Design as a distinct role
    Design as a thing
    Design(er) as a rock star
    Design as an activity

    But what you say about UI/UX is true!

    • The original blog post that kicked off this thread did have the UI/UX bent in the definition of design. Indigo’s on-time arrival focus required a business process design that possibly touched every part of the company, but for this present context we are not talking about that kind of design.

  2. Your post got me thinking about what other developed-market-centric views don’t apply in India for the time being (but are being applied by many). Will noodle on this and perhaps post something in a bit.

    • Well, you could study this blog 🙂 ….
      If I was forced to summarize the difference to a single point, I’d say lack of (in emerging markets) and presence of (in developed markets) “implicit trust”. That would be the atomic unit around which a lot of other issues and differences can be understood. Implicitly trusting legal contracts, implicitly trusting each other, implicitly trusting business and personal transactions etc.

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