Need to revisit the curriculum at design schools, including NIFT/NID : Be Entrepreneurial

It was a pleasure and privilege to be part of the Jury of the finals of the first All India #NIFT HG #business plan competition at @n.i.f.t national HQ in Delhi. It is indeed an honour and joy to start a new journey of contributing to the #design #education and fostering #entrepreneurship in design schools of the country.

Today, we have 16 NIFT campuses across the country. Five finalists emerged from the six month long competition that started from each of the 16 campuses. This initiative by #HarishGupta, an #NIFT alum of 1991 batch is praiseworthy and has the potential of #transforming the #design #education in #India.
In the pic include the visionaries who have given shape and are still giving to not only NIFT but also design as a edu-vertical and industry in the country. first DG Mrs Rathi (IAS) and current DG Mrs Sharda (IAS). Also seen are pioneer in #womenentrepreneurship @cwei Mrs Shashi, the founding CEO of Lacoste in India, Jayant, Harish Gupta of fashion learning, Praveen of Pincap fintech and other eminent roleholders in the NIFT fraternity Prof Sibichan, Prof Prabir, Prof Sudha, Prof Sohail…

The Jury was chaired by Mr Ganesh Natarajan, now an entrepreneurial mentor and investor, who has been known for spearheading Aptech at one point of time.

My few take aways from being part of the Jury..

A. The students taken in by the NIFT/NIDs may be creative, but the institutions need to invest in their personality transformation. You can present yourselves, create opportunities and clinch deals only if you are articulate and are convincing.

B. There is a dire need for instittutions to create a larger vision for themselves that can impact society in various ways, not limited to churning graduates. The four years of education needs to integrate with the external world. Break the insulated existence.

C. Then comes the need facilitate students to create their vision for life. Greater the integration with the external world through excercises of bringing outside world into classrooms and taking classrooms to the outsideworld, higher will be facilitation of students to have a better vision.

D. Need to foster entrepreneurial mindset as part of evolution of a student during the four years. This happens only when the institution is entrepreneurial, faculty is entrepreneurial, the processes are entrepreneurial. The institution should think of a few challenges/problems in its city as projects that could add immense value to the society, and solve them through their expertise; bring in relevant corporates to sponsor (csr), integrate these projects with the curriculum, at least in the 3rd and 4th year. Initiate the students into a structured entrepreneurial curriculum in the second year.

E. Of course embrace and institutionalize the competitions like NIFT HG business plan competition to help students participate, validate their ideas, create incubation possibilities. The funds will pour in. I am sure there are many investors like me who want to bet on the horses with potential.

F. The institutions need to tell themselves that they will incubate half a dozen endeavours/companies every year.

A stitch in time saves nine, as they say. It is time for NIFTs and NIDs to restitch in time to infuse energies.

Time to take off.



Philanthropy by design : Low Smoke Chulha – Abhimanyu Kulkarni @ Indialogues

Abhimanyu Kulkarni, Design Head, Philips India on Smokeless chulha

Abhimanyu Kulkarni, Design Head, Philips India on Smokeless chulha

Abhimanyu Kulkarni was born in India and graduated from IDC, IIT Mumbai with a Masters Degree in Industrial Design. Upon graduation, he worked in advertising and furniture industry. He joined Philips Design in Mumbai as a product designer and did a number of global short term assignments before moving to Hong Kong in 2000, where he widened his experiences and capabilities to become senior design manager.

As the Design Director and location manager of Philips Design India, He is responsible for the following client portfolio: Philips Lighting, Philips Lifestyle and Philips Healthcare and Philips Design Consulting. He has also worked with Philips Design’s Hong Kong branch as Senior design manager for global account of Audio Multimedia applications (AMA).

His creative team delivers global as well as regionally specific design solutions operating in both professional and consumer markets. It is through an intimate understanding of the diverse needs and complexities of a customer or consumer driven market that his design team is able to deliver the appropriate level of creative differentiation.

Low smoke chulha – Philips design asked people to design products that is of value to local people

–         Women and children are most affected

–         Equivalent to two packs of cigarette

–         It kills 1mn children, 3 deaths per minute, more than malaria; 6 lakh people die of smoke at home..

–         50% of people cook with biomass in India and china. In Sub-saharan it is almost 90%


Key insights – For any design intervention


–         The design needs to be fit with the existence ecosystem. Utensils, methods, ingredients; when we started going to more countries these became more glaring

–         Minimal dependence on external resources – it has to be all done within the local community

–         Driven by local communities that brings a great ownership


Context of living – a flavor of how we did the deep dive


–         Village called Fultan near Pune; prototyping at khervadi

–         We went and lived in the village –

o       Looked at the way they live, cook, wash etc;

o       Rituals of cooking

o       Location of chulha – which is a very significant

§         In Guatamala, chulha is in the center of the kitchen for people to sit around

§         In Kenya, women kneel over

o       Place

§         Outdoor cooking

§         Indoor modern

o       Co-creation with key stake holders

§         Involved them with co-creation workshop (10)

§         Participants from SHG ARTI (3)

§         Designers involved (3)

o       Concept directions evolved and brainstormed

o       We came out with two forms – Saral and Sampoorna

o       We went with prototypes and installed in six homes, got feedback

o       We had a few more iterations

§         College of engineering did work on comparability of impact

o       Ease of use – transporting, installing

§         We made modular so that it is easy

o       Challenge

§         A crack in the chulha in India is considered bad omen

§         Modular design helped in replacing

–         Key improvements

o       Biomass duct for efficient draft

§         Not only inefficient, more heat, more firewood etc

o       Designed to impact the vessel fast – 11 minutes to boil 1 liter of water, down from 22

o       Men go up and clean the chimney usually.

§         We got a connecter in the chimney to make life easy on cleaning

 –         Why soot in the first place. Can we have a soot collector? We create a jig-jag pattern to collect at the base itself


Deployment process

–         We want to find a way of community taking up the manufacturing, installing and maintaining.

–         Saral costs 800, sampoorna costs 1500

–         Half of the cost is paid by micro finance

–         Local community promotes it

–         We give molds to the entrepreneur

o       Makes, installs,

o       Local community promotes

o       NGOs bring the feedback

 Partners – for study

–         Junglescapes, Bandipur, Karnataka; Mysore Univ

o       Impact study apart from Economic, social and health benefits

o       Bandipur – 40 chulhas

§         Two thirds of biomass is saved

§         We could use Lantana and that added to saving

o       Three trips down to one trip to forest for wood

o       Painting the kitchen is once a year

o       Health benefits of cough and asthma reduced drastically

 We got people from Kenya – Alfan, a mason

–         Within 3 months he produced 60 chulhas

–         Heartening that one can make it and distribute just by the documentation and moulds

–         This has moved to many many countries – Peru, Gautamala,

We have created We encourage people to exchange, interact, training programs etc..-


Lasting impact with design and mobility – Collin Cole, Frog Design @ Indialogues

Collin Cole, Frog Design @ Indialogues

Collin Cole, Frog Design @ Indialogues

Colin Cole received his Bachelor of Fine Arts , Design from the University Of Texas, Austin.

He was the founder and president of Virtual Studio , from 1994-96. The company produced award-winning business to business projects for leading high tech companies, such as Compaq, Dell, AMD, Texas Instruments and other high tech leaders.

As Vice President of frog’s new Design Realization group, Collin ensures intensive collaboration between frog’s strategic design teams and technology developers worldwide. With over 20 years of experience in both design and engineering management, Collin brings focus and multi-disciplinary expertise to this critical phase of the delivery process. Collin also leads and supports frog’s expansion into new markets throughout the US, Europe and Asia.

In 1996, Collin co-founded frog’s digital media group, leading the company in its integration of hardware and software design to bring more innovative products to market. This group has since grown to take on projects across the entire spectrum of digital platforms, including web, software, mobile devices, consumer electronics, and other emerging technologies.

Over the last 20 years, Collin has worked as a designer, creative director, technology manager, and project lead. He has been in senior management, operations, and business-focused roles across the US, Europe and India.

About FROG –

Multidisciplinary from product design, 43 years old, 15 locations, 3 in India. 1600 people, 450 designers, 1000 software engineers

Personally – 25 years in design, 16 in frog, 10 frog business cards (various roles), 3.875000 airline miles at frog, 18 visits to India

We undertake a lot of Software design in India, for various projects of FROG.

Software as a platform of change – education, communication, access

  • We are fanatical about improving the world
  • We choreograph cultural change through design
  • We are not just abusiness
  • Our work outlasts movements and fads
  • Quality…

We work with Unicef in the areas of maternal Health and infant health project in Africa

Mobile Mandate – Mobile tech combined with research will have significant impact. How can the impact be made? Here are three projects that is creating an impact. How systems thinking and design can make a difference..


  1. Kibera slum – connecting people
    1. Connecting people less than 2 dollars a day
    2. Slums are overwhelming
    3. Conditions are horrific
    4. There are people bettering themselves and raising families
    5. Mobile is a pride and gives sense of identity

i.      Connects families, employment and information

    1. They buy prepaid cards – swapping cards and mobiles
    2. Hesitation to lend their phones
    3. Sharing phones is the key to solve… how do we go about


  1. Mobile money
    1. Afghanistan
    2. A lot of people are trying to live normal life
    3. 97% of people do not have bank account
    4. This is not unique to Afganiztan
    5. How do we help them to keep their money
    6. Almost every one has mobile phones
    7. M-Acer. Mobile banking

i.      Trust

ii.      Cultural issues – saving money?


  1. HIV awareness in South Africa
    1. Highest HIV positive citizens in the world – in some 40% of people
    2. Less than 5% know their status
    3. Not due to lack of resources
    4. 85% of men do not want to test  – social stigma
    5. They are waiting and watching, friend loses life… am I next
    6. 78% want to test it at home, if there is a way
    7. 101.3% of South Africa has mobile access..

 We came with multiple parts – mass awareness (MTN) + Self-testing (design research – self testing kit) + community (involved them to understand needs)

  • kit has instructional notes
  • Equipment
  • Method
  • 1 bn messages
  • 300% increase in incoming calls to National Aids Hotline

 Once you found out yourself and engage with Hotline, even discreetly you can find a way of progressing ahead, talking to counselor.

Creating a good software is not about tech problem. It can really have a big impact…


Insights and understanding


Appropriate technology


Thoughtful, culturally aware design


Multidisciplinary collaboration (community participation)

 Take ownership, Create your own change.

 Profitability of the models?

Two of the three projects is HIV. They are for community facilitation

 Focus on software has its own problems. Would you like to share some thoughts?

Being involved upstream and involved can be of immense value. It is not about engineering aspects but entire systemic.

Valerie K C – Founder, Designer Accord @ Indialogues, India’s TED

Valerie K C founder Designer Accord at Indialogues

Valerie K C founder Designer Accord at Indialogues

Valerie Casey speaks globally on systems thinking, cultural change, and sustainability, and is an Adjunct Professor in the graduate design program at CCA. She holds a master’s degree in cultural theory and design from Yale University and a BA from Swarthmore College.

As a consultant with companies, start-ups, and governments all over the world, she works on challenges ranging from creating new products and services, to transforming organizational processes and leaders like Microsoft, Samsung, Cisco, and Johnson & Johnson, among others, have sought out her expertise to tackle their design and innovation challenges. Before starting her own practice, Casey held executive leadership positions at the most respected design companies in the world.

Casey is the founder of the Designers Accord based in Cleveland ,OH, the global design coalition of designers, educators, and business leaders focused on creating positive social and environmental impact, founded in 2007, and through her leadership, it has grown to be one of the most influential organizations in the design world.

As globally recognized designer and innovator, she was named a “Guru” of the year by Fortune magazine, a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine, and a “Master of Design” by Fast Company. She was also selected as one of the “World’s Most Influential Designers” by Businessweek, and named a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum.

Twenty years ago, I came to India by ship! This time I am having the next dinner in India.

I am a designer – and love to make use of common things like cell phone, software, food for a better world.

For example, designing a diaper for toilet training. Potty training – sensor that tingles the child when the child will start wetting diaper; It started me thinking what we need to do to use our craft; Disposable diapers take 500 years, sensor will create toxic output. These are the questions that came to my mind.

In 2007, I started a global coalition that works for a better world, called Designers Accord – DA. It struck a chord. Several 100 thousand designers from across the country participate in the designer accord. It is counter-intuitive. It is trying to help people to collaborate, trust, asking for help. Encourage –

–         Dialogue

–         Leveraging the capabilities of members to solve challenges

The guiding principles are –

  1. Individual responsibility – educating on sustainability
  2. Educating people about sustainability for co-creation and collaboration

My journey with Designer Accord has given me five most important learnings –

Learning 1: 21st century challenges will not be solved with 20th century models.

–         What materials to use for greener products? We feel the discussions are narrow to begin with. The wealth accumulation and distortion… An alternative view of the world (wealth map). This cannot continue

Learning 2: Creativity is powerful (and it makes people really nervous)

–         CIO survey that happens every year by IBM, 1500 CEOs from across 67 countries

a.       Creativity is the most important thing that is needed in navigating the current world

  1. Bias against creativity has emerged in the last few years
  2. People thinking out-of-box are actually maligned, passed over for promotions
  3. Bias against creativity is very similar to racist and feminist;

Learning 3: complex problems are solved by networks and not people

955mn people around the world go hungry; while 40% of food is wasted while the food production is being asked to be increased by 50% to meet the challenges

a.       Restaurants, super markets and homes in developed world

b.      Developing countries – harvesting to moving for safer places is a challenge

c.       It is about agri policy, water, retention;

           All these at the heart of these challenges

Learning 4: Everything exists within a system

o       We need to have deep appreciation for the systems orientation

o       There is a consequence for every thing we do and every thing we do not do

o       That is not my responsibility or I am not responsible for… every thing we do has impact

Learning 5: Think differently

  • Water pump goes like a merry go round… we need water pumps.. it is one of the biggest failures..
  • When we focus on needs that are needed we may miss the opportunities
  • The great disruption

Every industry is going through transtion.

  • Products ————————–> services
  • Fiscal cycle ———————> Then new normal
  • Formal Education ————-> Socially created knowledge
  • Mobile phones ——————> Mobile internet
  • Individual purchase ————> collaborative consumption

A fascinating document that is internal one, whole DNA of Apple.. ..

–         Deeply empathetic

–         Focussed – edit out all other things, to deliver that one thing flawlessly

–         Branding – flawlessly, precisely,

Perceptions and reality are one and the same…

Our problem is usually operationalizing the ideas. How do we put the ideas in action and scale them. We should not depend on government funding. That age is over. It is completely the process thing. It is the least sexy things. It is all about systems

Does it make sense to push the R&D? No correlation between investment in R&D and innovation. We need to focus on giving simple tools to bring about simple solutions

Education and arts are same. Why are they not same? A while ago I heard the argument -one to the brain and one to the heart. It is a flawed one.

We need better choice architecture – We need to have ways to find solutions and resolve issues in a sustainable manner.

Choice architecture necessitates ownership. We need to make it participatory – Individual consumption to societal trends – You need to show off, that is the mindset

China has jumped from 7th largest economy in the world to 2nd economy. China has 10% luxury goods consumed in the world. Where are they coming from?

DA: Can we include buyers of designs..

We thought of phasing DA out by 5 years. Since it may not be relevant any more. It will be changing. Museum accord and travel accord have happened from DA. It is a network, away from the public view.

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