Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Scheme – its Evolution

The Design Clinic Scheme for MSMEs forms one of the 10 components proposed under the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme, NMCP, by the ministry of MSMEs, developed with its core objective to improve manufacturing competitiveness of the country’s large micro, small and medium scale industries and help them move up the value chain from OEM to ODM industries. The NMCP as a scheme was approved with its budgetary allocation by the government of India in the year 2006/07.

The proposal, largely in the form of an approach paper was initially developed at NID and was submitted to the ministry of MSMEs for its consideration.  NID has been closely and actively involved over these years with various sectors of Indian Industries, particularly with its large micro, small and medium scale industries, craft sector as well as the social sector. This active involvement has helped institute understand typical design needs and expectations of these sectors of industries and society. These experiences and understanding so developed, formed the basis while developing this unique design intervention approach for MSMEs. The design clinic approach thus proposed was also tried and tested in the form of design clinic workshops by NID with similar MSME industry clusters over the last few years. I had the opportunity to be part of the team offering these workshops and also the team that developed the approach paper.

Conventional mode of design intervention through design consultancy and training would not be affordable to the MSMEs. Largely unorganized sector, MSMEs of the country faces constant competition both from domestic as well as from international businesses. They thus need to constantly improve and refine their products, processes and strategy for their survival and growth in today’s competitive markets. Smaller in size, these industries are closer to their users and markets and thus are quicker to adapt to the changes and market demands. By the very nature of its business, MSMEs would thus expect quick, practical and demonstrative solutions/results that can be immediately implemented with minimum or no investment cost. The design intervention approach for these industries should take into consideration these aspects.

The design clinic approach of design intervention brings design to the door steps of these needy industries where a solution to an existing design problem is diagnosed and remedial steps suggested by a multi-disciplinary team of design expert. The value addition to an idea or a concept is imparted through interaction and at a lesser cost to the specific industry/ cluster. Thus a design clinic defined as a mechanism where clinical design solutions are made available to the design problems of products/services concepts and ideas that are brought in for design analysis and scrutiny. Replicating this model in a national scale, as a National Design Clinic, it was felt would help bring in clinical solutions to this much needy MSME sector, throughout the nation.

Especially with these sectors of industries, before embarking on any design intervention project, the designer need to gain holistic understanding of the particular industry/ business and identify design opportunity areas. These interventions would normally begin with designer having detailed discussion and interaction with the client, mostly the owner of the industry. With the purpose to explain the benefits of design, demonstrate his/her capabilities as designer, explore opportunity areas and in the process gain client’s confidence, the discussion would revolve around possible solutions/alternatives to improve existing products and/or processes. The design clinic as an approach tries to systemize this interaction of design diagnosis resulting into practical, remedial, quicker and implementable solutions. This being the beginning of the relation and interaction among designer and the MSME unit, design clinic scheme aims to develop a platform for continuous and constant interaction among these important stakeholders by offering financial assistance for design projects as its next step.

Through its consultancy wing, NID organized several such interactive sessions both at formal as well as informal level to explore opportunities and scope for project based design interventions. Some of the examples of such formal efforts based on design clinic approach include, Design Clinic workshops organized at Hyderabad, through NID’s extension centre, where the designer/ faculty member interacted with individual units to identify and propose remedial solutions.   In the year 2003and 2004, similar Design Clinic workshops were organized in collaboration with Grassroot Innovation Augmentation Network, GIAN, Ahmedabad, where various grassroots innovators, design students and design faculty members from NID, Ahmedabad and IIT, Mumbai and practicing designers as groups, analyzed the indigenous innovations developed by the participating innovators and solutions were proposed for further improvements / refinements of these innovations. Series of five-day Design Clinic cum Design Awareness Workshops were organized in the year 2006, with the financial support from DSIR, Govt. of India, for different industry clusters. These workshops were organized for Ceramics Cluster, Khurja, Light Engineering Industry cluster, Aurangabad, Furniture Cluster, Delhi and Textile Machinery Manufacturers’ cluster, Ahmedabad. Besides these focused efforts, NID’s consultancy wing organizes interactive sessions with the client/ industry before developing design project proposals for the specific inquiry.

Through its department of Outreach Programmes, NID has been actively engaged with various sectors and clusters of crafts in the country. As part of these engagements, NID undertook projects to carry out detailed Diagnostic Need Assessment Survey, DNAS, and feasibility study for various craft clusters across the country. These opportunity mapping exercises helped institute understand and develop methodologies and formats for such detailed macro as well as micro study to develop holistic understanding of the status and scope of design for specific cluster.

A course module Design Audit is offered to the post-graduate students of Strategic Design Management since 2006. The module offers these students the much needed  learning opportunity to gain holistic understanding of the specific industry and identify various design intervention opportunities  that may exists at product, process, communication, strategy and other levels within and around the industry/business. Over these years the course module has been contently revised and refined to suit the industry demands as well as students’ expectations and learnings.

The first task, as NID was entrusted with the responsibility to implement the scheme across the country as its nodal agency, was to develop detail guidelines, formats, procedures and methods for each components of the scheme.  Experiences and learning gained from each of the institute’s major departments, that are its Education wing, Consultancy wing, Outreach programmes and also its Industry Programmes & Projects department were employed here for developing these details. The learning and experiences of organizing several seminars and workshops through the Industry Programmes & Projects department helped develop detailed guidelines and formats for Design Awareness Seminars and Design Awareness Workshops.  The guidelines and formats developed for need assessment survey, NAS to be conducted as part of the Design Awareness workshop were derived based on the experiences of organizing DNAS, feasibility study and the Design Audit course module. The formats and procedures developed for the institute’s consultancy wing as well as also the students’ final semester diploma projects became useful resource for developing the project guidelines and formats.  These experiences also became the source for reference as well as provided the much needed confidence to take up this major challenge. The guidelines are so developed to complement the overall direction and objectives proposed under the scheme guideline developed by the ministry of MSME.

The scheme as is now being implemented across the country, the team members are in constant touch with all its stakeholders. The experiences gained from the process of implementation from each of our regional centers as well as the feedbacks received from different stakeholders of the scheme, are utilized to further refine and revise the scheme to improve its effectiveness and efficiency in terms of its implementation as well the scheme objectives. The Project Implementation Committee, PIC, and the Project Monitoring and Advisory Committee, PMAC, has been constantly monitoring and advising the implementation team. These collective and collaborative efforts from all the team members have helped develop and refine this unique and ambitious scheme for its effective implementation process and achieve its objectives of taking the scheme to the doorsteps of the needy MSME industries of the country.

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