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.