Saturday, December 31, 2011

Design … to improve manufacturing competitiveness

The importance and benefits of design can be best demonstrated through projects. Major emphasis of the design clinic scheme thus is on projects, with its over 60% fund allocated for design project support to the MSMEs. 

With the target to reach out to around 200 industry clusters, the scheme will support 400 design projects. This includes support to 300 professional design projects and 100 student design projects. Individual MSME unit or group of MSMEs can apply for the project support. Upon the approval of the project, the scheme would reimburse 60% of the design project expenses.  This includes design fees, model and prototype expenses as well as project related travel and documentation expenses. Individual MSME unit or a group of upto three units can get the financial support maximum upto Rs. 9.0 lakh, while a group of four or more units can get the maximum support of Rs. 15.0 lakh for the professional design project.

The scheme has received encouraging response from the industry and by now we have received 109 project proposals. These proposals are at various stages of their evaluation. From the 47 project proposals already approved, 6 projects have been completed and around 11 projects are in the final phase of their completion.
The scheme offers an interesting challenge to the country's design fraternity. The scheme is launched by the government of India for the country's large micro, small and medium enterprises, MSMEs as part of its National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme, NMCP, with a specific objective to improve manufacturing competitiveness of these MSMEs.  The Design Clinic Scheme is one of the 10 schemes launched under the NMC programme and is financially supported by the ministry of MSMEs, Govt. of India.

The focus of the scheme therefore is on improving manufacturing competitiveness of MSMEs through the appropriate use of design. 

This subtle but critical difference in terms of design intervention approach to the problems/project is felt missed out by the designers and is visible in the project proposals submitted to the scheme. The proposals invariably stop at highlighting the design intervention towards developing a new product; improve the existing product in terms of its aesthetics, functionality, addition of new features etc. Over and above these benefits, each proposal is evaluated from the perspective of its potential/s and scope of design intervention to improve the manufacturing competitiveness of MSME unit’s product/ business, to increase export potential and/or its potential to reduce import substitute etc. 

Each of the proposals submitted to the scheme are evaluated at three levels. At the first level the proposal is reviewed independently by three external design experts.  At the second stage of assessment, this proposal is assessed by the Project Assessment Panel, PAP, comprising of designers, members from industry associations and from government organizations. At the final stage, the recommendations of PAP are discussed and reviewed by the Project Management and Advisory Committee, PMAC, of the scheme for its approval (details on ). 

The projects completed so far under the scheme support, have ably demonstrated the strength and capability of design to improve manufacturing competitiveness of the product/s and the businesses as a whole. While design interventions have helped improve these products from their aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality, addition of new feature etc. perspectives, these interventions have helped reduce material, weight, product volume, product floor space (foot print area), etc. Design interventions have helped optimize components as well as overall manufacturing process resulting in reduction in production cost and improved product quality. Standardization of parts and components, modular approach, ease of assembly, maintenance, optimized after sale services, etc. have been some of the added benefits of these interventions towards improved manufacturing competitiveness.  Design Interventions thus have provided holistic solutions resulting in incredible benefits and major value additions for their client MSME units to stand out from the competition. With the newly designed products now compatible for global trade, these interventions would certainly help develop strong brand value for their MSMEs.

The project proposal formats and the guidelines have been further refined to help MSMEs and designers include all the relevant and required information in their proposal/s.  The complete process of submission of the proposal as well as the information of its status will be very soon available online on the scheme website.  The scheme implementation team is constantly facilitating external experts and project assessment committee, whenever required to connect and get the necessary information/ clarifications from the MSME units and/or designer at the earliest.

Country’s large micro, small and medium enterprise sector, a crucial industry sector in the context of country’s economic and social development, demands holistic solutions to improve their manufacturing competitiveness and thereby survive and progress in the global markets of today. Design can contribute at a major scale to offer such holistic solutions and thereby help the country’s MSMEs to move up the value chain. Few of the projects completed so far have ably demonstrated this capability. I am sure, country’s design fraternity will rise to this challenge to be part of this major design movement. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

MSMEs in India

World over, the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises or MSMEs have been recognized as the backbone of the country’s economic growth. MSMEs’ role in the economic and social development of the country is now well established. In most of the economies world over, the MSMEs constitute over 90% of total enterprises. The labour and capital ratio and the overall growth in the MSMEs is normally much higher than in the larger industries. The labour intensity of the MSME sector being much higher than that of the large enterprises, MSMEs generates the highest rates of employment growth.  According to the Australian economist Chris Hall, SME sectors provide totally 70 % of employment worldwide.

 For India, a labor abundant country, MSMEs are the major source of employment generation and foreign exchange earnings.  MSMEs are the second largest source of employment after agriculture. MSMEs provide employment to about 59.7 million persons through 26.1 million enterprises. This sector contributes 8 per cent of the country’s GDP, 45 per cent of the manufactured output and 40 per cent of its exports. MSMEs in the country manufacture over 6,000 products.

Over 95 % of the country’s industries come under MSME category.  And more than 94 per cent (24.5 million) of these MSMEs are in the unregistered segment, with a large number established in the informal or unorganized sector.  From these MSMEs about 7.3 million are manufacturing enterprises while 18.8 million enterprises are engaged in rendering various services. And 54.4% of the MSMEs (14.2 million) are rural enterprises.

It is estimated that to create one job in the MSME sector, only Rs 72,000 is required as against Rs 5.5 lakh required in the large organised sector. By providing employment in the rural area, MSMEs help arrest migration from villages to cities.  The geographic distribution of the MSMEs is also more even. In view of these factors, MSMEs are important for achieving national objectives of growth with equity and inclusion.

Realizing the significance of this sector in overall growth and progress of the country, the government has taken several initiatives over the years towards strengthening this vital sector. The MSME development organization was set up in 1954 as an apex body for sustained and organized growth of MSMEs in the country. For the first time in Indian history, the government in the year 1991 announced a separate policy for the small scale sector that focuses on further promotion of the sector. The MSME development Act 2006 came in effect from 2nd October 2006.  With the objective to ensure healthy growth of this sector and to increase its competitive edge, the Government of India announced the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme (NMCP) during the budget speech 2005-06. Through the amendment of the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, through Presidential notification dated 9th may 2007, Ministry of Agro and Rural Industries and the Ministry of Small Scale Industries were merged into the single ministry - Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs.

In India, the micro, small and medium enterprises have been classified broadly into two categories; manufacturing enterprises and those engaged in providing or rendering services. As per the MSME Development Act of 2006, (India) micro, small and medium industries are defined based on their investment in plant and machinery for manufacturing enterprise, and based on their investment in equipments for enterprises providing or rendering services.

According to this act:
·         A micro enterprise is where the investment in plant and machinery does not exceed twenty five lakh rupees.
·         A small enterprise is where the investment in plant and machinery is more than twenty five lakh rupees but does not exceed five crore rupees.
·          A medium enterprise is where the investment in plant and machinery is more than five crore rupees but does not exceed ten crore rupees.

Accordingly in the case of the enterprises engaged in providing or rendering of services,
·         A micro enterprise is where the investment in equipment does not exceed ten lakh rupees.
·         A small enterprise is where the investment in equipment is more than ten lakh rupees but does not exceed two crore rupees.
·         A medium enterprise is where the investment in equipment is more than two crore rupees but does not exceed five crore rupees.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Orientation Programmes

An Orientation Programme is planned at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, on 15th November. And another Orientation Programme is being organized on 18th November at Baddy, Himachal Pradesh. As part of the scheme, we plan to organize at least one orientation programme in each of the states. We have already organized elevan such orientation programmes  in various major cities covering different states.

Orientation Programme forms important component of the awareness and promotional activity of the scheme. The scheme, as it has three different components, need to be explained in detail. The need for such platform for interaction and discussion with all the stakeholders of the scheme was thus realized in the beginning of the scheme implementation. The Orientation Programme thus offers us an opportunity to explain in detail the scheme and its implementation process to its various stakeholders that is industry associations, government organizations working with MSMEs, Educational Institutes, designers and interested MSME units from the state/s. The programme is thus developed such that offers platform for discussion and interactions to address specific inquiries from these stakeholders.

As we have now completed many seminars, workshops and design projects under the scheme, the outcomes of these workshops and design projects forms important case studies of the benefits of design for these industries. The first showcase design exhibition and seminar was organized on 29th June 2011 at NID, Ahmedabad as part of the World Industrial Design Day Celebration. Second such Showcase Design Exhibition and seminar was organized at Delhi.  Since then the exhibition is now combined with the orientation programme, thus making it more effective in explaining the importance and benefits of design to the MSME units.

With the view to take the scheme to the needy MSME units across the country, NID has tied up with various industry associations and apex bodies, both at the state level as well as at the national level. For organizing these orientation programmes, NID is thus partnering with these apex bodies. Thus the orientation programme at Bhopal is organized with the support of Federation of Indian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises,FISME, New Delhi and M.P. Laghu Udhyog Sangh, MPLUS, while the orientation programme at Baddy on 18th November is organized with the support of Baddi Barotiwala Nalagarh Industries Asociation, BBNIA, a local industry association from Baddi.
The orientation programmes thus helps us connect with all the various stakeholders of the scheme. Discussion and interaction during the programme, while help develop that much needed confidence amongst the stakeholders, it provides platform to develop and build relationship with the implementation team as well as amongst the local industry associations and local designers, one of the important objective of the scheme.

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.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Taking the scheme to the doorsteps; Awareness and Promotion Efforts

A radio jingle as part of the promotional efforts of the scheme was recently launched on FM channels in select cities. This interesting radio jingle of 30 seconds duration developed in hindi  - “lambi race ka ghoda” - was aired on 26th, 27th and 28th September 2011. The jingle is so developed to reach out to various micro and small scale industry owners in cities and smaller towns of the country, and convey the message of the need for design for value addition and long term growth of their business. The analysis of DCS website suggests manifold increase of visits to the website during these three days.
A short film describing the benefits of the scheme and its different components, and another film of the duration of 10 minutes, describing the benefits of design to the MSME industries, are now ready. Also an animation film is being developed to convey the message of design and the benefits of the scheme to the participants. These films will be used during various seminars and workshops organized as part of the scheme, as well as part of promotional material during various events and exhibitions.
While the Design Clinic Scheme aims to create awareness of design amongst the MSME industries, promotion and creating awareness about the scheme among all its various stakeholders in itself formed the first major challenge for the implementation team to take up. Taking design to the doorsteps of the needy MSME units is the unique feature of the scheme and also one of its main objectives.  Since the scheme launch, various different mediums are thus being vigorously explored to reach out to over 26 million MSME units spread across the country. The three different component of the scheme as developed with a view to create handholding support of design to the MSME industries demands reaching out to both the industry associations as well as to the individual MSME units. Two of the three components of the scheme demands MSME contribution for their participation, and thus the promotional activity need to go beyond just awareness creation to that of individual and regular discussions and facilitation to convince them of the benefits of design as well as the scheme.
Advertisements are regularly placed in various national and regional newspapers throughout the country as well as in different industry magazines and periodicals. The team members regularly participate in various MSME industry specific fairs and industry meets through displays and/or presentations on scheme. Information brochures are distributed to the interested members at the railway stations and display kiosks have been placed at the airports. Different sections of the media, from both the regional as well as national level, are regularly covering the events organized as part of the scheme and thereby helping us take the message of design to the industries. 
Team members from the scheme’s five regional centers are constantly reaching out to industries through direct contacts, through regular emails and phone calls and through personal meetings and industry visits. They have been constantly developing and building up their database of the interested industry participants. Various MSME District offices, MSME DIs, and District Industry centers, DICs at the state and regional level are supporting us and facilitating our regional centers to reach out to different MSME industry clusters and industries. Liaison officers have been appointed in few of the select cities and they have also been supporting the regional centers to reach out to the industries. Besides these efforts, the institute has also tied up with various national and regional apex industry associations and organizations to help us take this unique design intervention scheme to the needy MSME associations and industries. CII, FICCI, FISME, PHD chamber of Commerce, Foundation of MSMEs, HCCI, Kolkota, MCED, Aurngabad, CTTC, Bhubneshwar, IIE, Guwahati are some of the apex bodies and organizations helping us in this process.  
To explain the scheme in detail to its various stakeholders including members of industry association, government organizations, designers, MSME unit owners etc., orientation programmes are organized in major cities, as part of the scheme promotion activity. So far 10 such orientation programmes have been successfully organized and another 11 orientation programmes are scheduled. These orientation programmes while help promote the scheme, they also help explain and discuss the scheme in detail with the stakeholders, and answer specific queries of the participants.
Over the last one and half years, various design awareness seminars, design awareness programmes and design projects have been successfully completed in various parts of the country. A Showcase Design Exhibition was planned to exhibit these achievements on 29th June 2011, on the occasion of World Industrial Design Day, at NID, Ahmedabad. The achievements of the targets and especially the design project outcomes were a major convincing factor for the MSME industries. Along with the exhibition of these outcomes, a seminar was also organized, were the designers made case study presentations of their projects undertaken as part of the scheme. Based on the first showcase design event at Ahmedabad, second showcase design event was planned at Delhi on 29th August 2011. It was interesting and heartening to see and hear both the designer- the service provider, and the MSME unit owner, the beneficiary of the design intervention, together explain and demonstrate the benefits of the scheme.  Based on these success and experiences so gained, both the orientation programme and the showcase design exhibition are now combined and first such event is now being organized at Hydrabad on 13th October 2011. The orientation programme is arranged in collaboration with FISME, on similar line as the other orientation programmes that were organized in collaboration with other apex organizations.
The scheme aims to create a platform for the MSME units and the designers, for their constant interactions. Thus similar efforts have parallaly been made by the team to reach out to the entire design fraternity of the country. Designers are contacted through individual and group emails, direct phone calls and groups meetings are organized in various cities to meet, explain and discuss the scheme details. Designers, also being important stakeholders as service providers of the scheme, regular contacts have been established to understand and address their concerns and expectations from the scheme. They have been constantly facilitated and encouraged to utilize this important opportunity to be part of a major capability building exercise for the nation to help MSMEs move up the value chain from OEM industries to ODM industries. The implementation team is reaching out to design consultants, design firms, design institutes and the design students to explain the scheme details and help them join and empanel with the scheme.
Due to these continuous and vigorous efforts by all the members of the implementation team we have been able to reach out to majority of the MSME associations and clusters of the country. Within the last one and half years, since the launch of the scheme, 153 design awareness seminars have been completed, around 50 design awareness programme are in various stages of their progress and the scheme has received 88 project proposals. These programmes have been organized in 22 states of the country covering around 20 industry sectors. Over 650 designers (including design institutes and design students), 145 industry associations (over and above the apex organizations) and around 400 MSME units have registered with the scheme by now.  The scheme website forms the base for these registration and information sharing.  All the empanelled members are regularly updated with the scheme progress as well as the opportunities through weekly emails sent from the scheme secretariat. Regular feedbacks are received from the members and the scheme is constantly refined and revised based on these feedback and experiences.
These efforts have helped us create awareness of the scheme among both the MSME units and associations as well as among the design fraternity from across the country. The secretariat and the regional offices have been receiving good response and requests for organizing design awareness seminars for different clusters and associations.
While these efforts of promotion will continue, the implementation team is now gearing up to take up its next challenge to create and develop platform for constant dialogue and discussion amongst these empanelled industries and designers and  identify design  opportunity areas for their further collaboration to improve products and processes.  Considering the need for these interactions at local level, we are exploring all different possibilities to create opportunities for individual as well as group interactions. The design awareness programme, the second component of the scheme is developed keeping in mind this objective, for the designer to interact at individual level/ MSME unit and discuss and identify the opportunity areas. The implementation team’s efforts are thus focused now to encourage industries to participate in these programmes. The team members are now reaching out to individual industry units for this purpose.  Also a separate section is now allotted on the scheme website where the interested industry can display their design requirements. Interested designers can thus directly approach the industry.  The project proposal thus developed through mutual agreement and understanding may then be routed through the scheme for financial support, if requuired. This initiative has received good response and we have now over 15 such requests online.
As mentioned earlier, the scheme aims to develop continuing interactions amongst its various stakeholders and the implementation team being one of the important functionaries to develop these relationships, the team has to constantly demonstrate its sincerity and commitment through its various interactions with the stakeholders. All the sections of the scheme secretariat need to be thus agile and efficient to quickly respond to the inquiries and requests from the stakeholders. We are thus constantly working on stream-lining the support system for efficient response and facilitation throughout the entire process, including pre-event/project as well as post-event/project demands.
The scheme thus has been providing a continuing journey for all its team members to learn, experience and improve at each stage of its implementation.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Implementing the Scheme – A Design opportunity

NID is appointed as a nodal agency by the Ministry of MSMEs, Government of India to successfully implement the Design Clinic Scheme for MSMEs throughout the country. I look at this responsibility and the project as a design opportunity and a creative exercise to scale up one of the successful design intervention models developed by the institute. This design intervention model, tested earlier by the institute with small scale industries and clusters is found to be more appropriate to the country’s large MSME sector that otherwise may not be able to afford design. Scaling up of this unique design intervention model will help benefit the large section of these industries. MSMEs in India constitute almost 94% of its industries. Successful implementation of the scheme would help provide the much needed competitive edge for these industries to survive in today’s global markets. This major project and the assignment is thus lot more than a mere administrative exercise to achieve the set targets.

Design forms one of the crucial element and a driving force for most business successes of today. Design primarily is defined as a systematic problem solving methodology. However, with the increasingly globalized and highly saturated markets of today, the role of design has now also expanded to include that of defining problems - understand user demands, their needs and aspirations – and identify new opportunity areas. Design as a professional activity is thus constantly reinventing and redefining its roles and responsibilities.

One would today, come across many local innovations, good practices developed by individuals/ groups to satisfy individual and/or community needs. Also one would find interesting and ingenious methods and models that may have successfully solved community/ group problems. The examples of these good practices or successful models could be available in variety of forms - may be in the form of good governance, new model of business / work practice, way of living, development of a self-sustained village, or may be in the form of a cooperative society/ model providing employment opportunities at the doorsteps. Replicating these local innovations, models and prototypes and importantly scaling them up to benefit larger section of the society is a major challenge and an emerging opportunity area.
The traditional role of design has been to transform the idea/ technology into marketable products and services. Thus, design focused largely on offering contextual solutions having mostly a single /specific user group / target segment or solution seeker and on the other side a specific producer/ client or a solution provider. Replicating or scaling up an innovation, good practice or a model, would demand their applications to different context and for variety of different stake holders. This would thus call for different approach and skill sets. The main challenge here would be to maintain effective implementation of the model/method, creation of easy and effective interface for various stakeholders, quality of its deliverables etc.

The design clinic scheme thus offers similar challenge to implement the identified design intervention model to 200 MSME clusters spread over around 17 industry sectors and though out the country. With the objective to create a platform for constant and continuous interaction amongst the MSME industries and the design fraternity of the country and thereby help develop long term relations between these stakeholders, the scheme is subdivide into its three main components that are Design Awareness Seminars, Design Awareness Programmes and Design Projects. While there have been similar successful design intervention models for the small scale industry sectors elsewhere in other countries, such as Design for District Model in Italy etc., the scheme launched here in India offers added challenges of successful implementation of all its three components.

One of the major challenge that the team faced in the beginning was to develop guidelines and formats that while standardize various steps and activities, provide enough flexibility to accommodate contextual needs and demands of the industry units, the clusters as well as the designers involved. Various medium and platforms to create awareness and generate interests have been constantly explored. Creating an effective channel of communication at all it’s various levels of implementation, and to its variety of different stakeholders throughout the country, is in itself one of the major design challenge. While the dedicated website provides platform for sharing information and experiences, the members of the implementation team from its regional centers are reaching out to the stakeholders and facilitate them to avail the benefits of the scheme.  Advisory committee and implementation panels comprising of experts, professionals and officials have been monitoring the scheme and based on the experiences gained from the field the scheme is constantly revised and refined.

Effective implementation of the scheme and thus scaling up of this unique design intervention model will certainly help create a sustainable design eco system and a major design movement in the country. The experiences and learnings gained from this project would be useful for development of similar successful platforms and methods at various levels of country’s economy and society. The knowledge gained from this exercise could be utilized for successful implementation; replication and/or scaling up of various different ideas, practices and models that already exist in the country. This will help the country effectively utilize its indigenous knowledge base, indigenous innovations, resources and skill sets for its economic and societal growth, one of the major directions emerging worldwide for any country to progress to innovation economy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Platform for Continuous Interaction

The Design Clinic Scheme for MSMEs, a unique and ambitious design intervention scheme for the country's large micro, small and medium scale enterprises, was launched by the Ministry of MSMEs, Government of India on 17th February 2010. National Institute of Design, NID, Ahmedabad is appointed as the nodal agency for its implementation throughout the country.  The scheme targets to reach out to around 200 MSME industry clusters.

The first of its kind design intervention scheme aims to take design to the doorsteps of the needy MSME industries of the country, through organizing series of Design Awareness Seminars, Design Awareness Programmes and Design Projects.  Through these efforts, the scheme aims to create a platform for the needy MSME industries and the designers for continuous and constant interaction to improve their products and processes. One of the ten schemes launched by the Ministry of MSME, Government of India, under its National Manufacturing Competitiveness programme, NMCP, the Design Clinic Scheme for MSMEs, would encourage
creation of 'Designed in India' and 'Designed for India' products and services. Thereby creating a sustainable eco-system for these industries the scheme will help MSMEs compete and succeed in today's contemporary global markets.

As the first step of its implementation detailed guidelines and formats have been developed. Various channels of communication and its marketing to reach out to the industries as well as the design fraternity are constantly tried out. A  dedicated website for the scheme has so far served as the platform for interaction. Also regional centres have been set up at Delhi ( North Zone), Ahmedbad (West Zone), Bangalore (South Zone), Kolkota (East Zone) and Guwahati (North-East Zone) with a view to reach out to various parts of the country.

The scheme as of today, has successfully organized 150 Design Sensitization Seminars for various sectors of  MSMEs in various different parts of the country. Also numbers of Design Awareness Programmes, Orientation Programmes and Design Showcase events have been organized till date. The zonal centers of the scheme have been closely working with various industry associations and organizations to facilitate them for successful organization of these programmes.  Design demands contextual and specific solutions and thus each of the seminars and awareness programmes demands unique and specific inputs for the industry sector being catered. The scheme formats and guidelines are thus being continuously refined and improved based on the feedback and experiences received from various stake holders including from our zonal centers.

The members of the implementation team at various zonal centres are putting in their best efforts to reach out to different industry associations and MSME units, facilitate them for organizing different programmes as well as answer various different queries.  Along with our zonal centers, NID has also tied up with various national level industry associations, government organization and have liasoning officers appointed in different cities for quicker, smoother and efficient implementation of the scheme.

It is thus felt necessary to create a platform for constant interaction for various stake holders of the scheme to share the experiences, to quickly answer the queries and thereby facilitate the industries get the benefits of the scheme, and at the same time document and report the status of the scheme.

This interactive platform is thus created with the above objectives.   I look forward to frank and open discussions and  suggestions through this platform with a view to serve the basic objective to take design to the doorsteps of the MSME industries of the country.