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View from India: Dreaming Designs

Design is not rocket science, but it needs to be demystified to be simple and human-centric. Design becomes impactful if it is sustainable and touches the lives of the common man. All this and more came to light at the solidThinking Converge 2016 India Conference in Bangalore this week.

The conference is part of a global series aimed at “product and experience creators” who might use SolidThinking design software. “Simulation and design come together in Converge 2016, said Jeff Brennan, chief marketing officer of Altair, which owns solidThinking. “It’s important to bring simulation into the early stages of design.” Engineering principles, mathematics, analytical tools, 3D images and simulation are among the enablers that turn design into reality.

Brett Chouinard, Altair chief operating officer, added: “Altair and solidThinking are dedicated to designers. Altair has a vision to change the way organisations design products and make decisions through the convergence of art, science, engineering, design and software development.”

A diverse section of forward-looking thinkers showcased creative, innovative design solutions at the event. VFI has captured this spirit. Read on…

Back to School

Most of us think school buses are the regular buses painted in yellow. And so when Ashok Leyland showcased Sunshine, its next generation of school buses, at the Auto Expo 2015 in Delhi, it’s understandable that the vehicles have begun to attract several schools in Andhra Pradesh. “The school bus has been conceptualised taking into account factors like the frame, configuration and ergonomics, along with elements like happiness and surprise. The interiors have been designed just as we design our homes,” said Sathiya Seelan, head of styling (product design) at Ashok Leyland, flagship of the Hinduja Group, and India’s largest bus manufacturer. Though it’s a front-engine bus, the grille has been dropped to give the bus a smiley image. The design vocabulary extends to ergonomically crafted chairs, wherein each row has a different colour. Sunshine has anti-bacterial interiors, anti-skid flooring, fire retardant interiors, an i-Alert system for real-time tracking and a front collision-avoidance system called 6th sense.  Bump-free rides, emergency exit doors and door alarms are its other highlights. “We are preparing to cater to the demand across schools in various parts of India in the next bus season,” added Mr Seelan.

Terrain Travel

It becomes interesting when a company designs high performance vehicles and goes that extra mile to create a market for recreational-adventure vehicles that offer an off-roading experience in a relatively unexplored market like India. That’s what made the presentation from Polaris India engaging.

“Our presence in India began in 2011. Our recreational vehicles, which are being promoted through various events, navigate multiple terrains including desert landscapes, snow and hilly terrains. They have been lapped up by our defence forces,” said Pankaj Dubey, country head and managing director of Polaris India.  The RZR Turbo is being used by the Indian Army for traversing through rough terrains. Likewise, Polaris’ range of snow scooters has found a market in the snow-capped region of Jammu and Kashmir. The portfolio of high-quality off-road vehicles (ORVs), innovative all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is functional with upgraded horsepower performance facilitating extreme travel. Some of them are also family vehicles, ke the MulTix. This five-carrier personal utility vehicle can double up as a load-bearing van too.

The company has entered the motorcycle market with its high-end range titled the Indian Motorcycle, a 1,000 CC bike, priced from Rs 15 lakh upwards. The latest to hit the Indian roads is Indian Springfield, its new 1,800 CC motorcycle, slated to be launched in the next two weeks.

A combination of tech tools and design aesthetics has enriched the range. “We have integrated SolidThinking software into the designs. Consequently, this has cut the design iterations in half and has also resulted in 35-40 per cent reduction in the weight of the vehicle,” highlighted Mr Dubey.

Innovate & Ideate

Technology becomes meaningful if it trickles down to the lower rungs of the economic pyramid. Nitin Gupta, a design graduate from the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing (CPDM), has understood this. The low productivity of Indian farmers and their appalling living conditions urged Gupta to come up with a solution to increase their productivity. He devised a handheld cotton-harvesting machine with a patented technology. Gupta then set up Sickle Innovations a farming solutions company that works closely with farming communities. The effort paid off. Interestingly Sickle Innovations, a spin out of an MDes project from CPDM that won this year's ISBA Award for being the most innovative start-up of 2016.

CPDM is the design and manufacturing face of IISc (Indian Institute of Science) the highest ranked university in India. It is among the top design schools in the world that specialise in training development of hardware products. The two-year professional Masters MDes programme is the flagship programme of the Centre.

Besides farming solutions, CPDM has been the platform for generating many ideas. Like Purak, a socially impact product, which is an affordable advanced prosthetic arm. “Purak – a high-tech prosthetic arm developed at SCALE Lab of CPDM – is highly affordable for the Indian user. It is one-tenth the cost of comparable products. A second version will be launched simultaneously in both India and the UK, through a joint, multi-crore project with University of Oxford funded by the Wellcome Trust,” said Mr Amaresh Chakrabarti - Professor & Chairman, Centre for Product Design & Manufacturing - IISC, Bangalore.

CPDM has an interesting agenda ahead. “Forthcoming plans include a ‘Smart Factory’ laboratory. This will be the first of its kind in India to be fully built to cater to help MSMEs of India become smart,” added Mr Chakrabarti.

Pool of Ideas

“Design is not just a representation, but it’s about thinking and the art of storytelling can be used to represent an idea. A good design can sustain itself and if it is original, it can retain its relevance in times to come,” felt Mr Suresh Sethi - Global Design Director, Air & Water, Vice President, Design Asia South, Whirlpool. By his admission, Mr Sethi was a dreamer in school. He drew with a pencil and now, he uses 3D tools in his present role at Whirlpool, a leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances in the country.

Whirlpool has designed a range of appliances that are particularly suited for the Indian consumer. Take the case of Whirlpool Ace, a semi automatic twin tub (SATT) washing machine type catering to the mass market in India. The fact that it has been designed as a wash workstation with a uniquely crafted basin shaped wash tub lid, extendable spin tub lid, compact control panel and wheels for mobility, makes it suitable for Indian consumers. “The twin tub washers are popular machines because of low cost, low water consumption and ease of use,” he explained.

There’s also Whirlpool’s three-door refrigerator from the Protton World Series. The three-door refrigerator is a format that has come out of Indian consumer research into the way they use this appliance. It saves energy and has effective space management especially because the vegetable drawer is at the bottom, which has been appreciated by Indian consumers.

The products are outcome of intensive consumer research by the Global Consumer Design, Whirlpool, which has integrated the Indian users’ insight into the design scheme. This has lead to a positive business growth ever since the product was launched in India. “A time has come when we need to humanise design for people’s needs. Consumer relevance needs to be built into design,” Mr Sethi concluded.

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