Monday, January 9, 2012

Design Awareness Seminars

We have, over the last 20 months, completed 166 Design Awareness seminars across the country. A seminar is being organized today at Udaipur, for the members of Stone and Marble Industry Association. And another such seminar is planned for the Auto component manufacturers at Faridabad on 12th January 2012. This seminar will be organized by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industries. The Design Clinic Scheme for MSMEs targets to reach out to 200 MSME clusters and thus targets to complete 200 Design Awareness seminars as part of the scheme.
Design Awareness Seminar is the first of the three components of the Design Clinic Scheme. The seminar, normally of the duration of 4 to 6 hours, aims to create the much needed awareness about the need and benefits of design through presentations by expert designers. The seminar also helps create the platform to initiate and further the interaction between the local industries and local designers. While the MSME association, apex body or local government organization of the area can organize this seminar, the expenditure, maximum upto Rs. 60,000/- is reimbursed from the scheme. As an implementing agency, detailed guidelines and formats for organizing the seminar have been developed. Project Implementation Committee, PIC, of the Design Clinic Scheme process the requests received for organizing the seminars and approve them as per scheme guidelines and objectives.
The scheme secretariat has tied up with various national level apex bodies as well as regional industry associations in different regions to reach out to different MSME associations, MSME industry sectors and MSME units. Besides these apex bodies, 159 individual industry associations have registered with the scheme. Our regional centers at Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangluru, Kolkota and Guwahati as well as the liaison officers in different cities help and facilitate industry associations organize these seminars. Over 750 consultant designers/design firms/ design institutes / design students have registered with the scheme.
As we are nearing the target of completing 200 Design Awareness seminars, it will be important to compile and analyze the experiences gained from the same.
From the 166 seminars completed so far, 47 seminars have been organized in the west zone region, 36 seminars in South zone region, 37 seminars in East zone, 25 seminars in the North East region and 21 seminars have been organized in the North zone region. These seminars have been organized in 25 different states and union territories of the country, covering 21 broad industry sectors of MSMEs, ranging from Metal Products, Plastic Products, Machine Tools, Agriculture Products, Auto Components, Furniture, Engineering Components, Gems & Jewellery, Leather Products, Product Packaging, Bamboo etc. industry sectors.

With an average participation of 42 persons and around 28 industries per seminar, we have reached out to over 6700 participants from over 4500 MSME units from across the country. The participants from these MSME units who attended the seminars include director, partner, MD of various MSME units, marketing head, project manager, R&D engineers and designers, workers, helpers of the units etc. Over 340 design experts interacted with the participant MSME unit members through these seminars. The seminars were organized in over 108 different cities/ towns/villages across the country.
Sanitary and Bathroom Products, Mohali, Panjab; Foundry industry units, Agra, UP; Hand Tools manufacturers, Jallandhar, panjab; Agriculture Products, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu; Imitation Jewellery manu. Cluster, Machalipatanam, Vijaywada, AP; UPS manufacturers association, Bangalore, Karnataka; Surgical Equipment manu. Cluster, Baruipur, West Bengal; Engineering Fabrication unit cluster, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh; Food Processing units for Makhana Processors, Darbhanga, Bihar; Blacksmith cluster, Jorhat, Assam; Jewellery Cluster, Imphal, Manipur; Bamboo Cluster, Bairabi, Mizoram; Transformer and Stone crusher cluster, Gwalior, M.P.; Light & Stove Manu. Asso., Mumbai, Maharastra; Plastic Molded Products, Rajkot, Gujarat etc. are some of the clusters and places where the seminars have been organized.
Reports of each of these seminars, containing the list of participants, programme schedule, photographs showcasing the seminar in progress, etc. have been submitted by the association and these reports are online at . The secretariat ensures release of the reimbursement, as far as possible, within ten days of receiving the required documents. This has been one of the positive aspects of the implementation team as over 135 seminars have already been reimbursed by now.
In the beginning of the implementation of the scheme, it took fair amount of struggle and efforts to convince the MSME associations to come forward to organize the seminar. As the first phase of its implementation, 22 MSME industry clusters were selected. The members of the implementation team from our regional centers had to pursue hard to organize its first design awareness seminar. The first seminar was organized after three months of the scheme launch, by the Toy Association, Delhi on 8th May 2010. This sector being largely an unorganized sector, there were few formal associations and/or authorized members, thus making it difficult to complete the formalities, take the necessary decisions for organizing the seminar as well as circulate the information about the same. The progress thus was slow in this initial period with 1 seminar organized in May 2010, 2 seminars in June and 4 seminars organized in July 2010.
Corrective measures were quickly taken and were decided to open up the scheme to other MSME associations and apex bodies to take the benefits of the scheme. Also by this time various steps to promote the scheme were implemented, as organization of orientation programmes, launch and stabilization of scheme website, establishment of all the regional centers, advertisements etc. By this time the team also gained in confidence as well as the capability to meet the challenges. Specific agreements were signed with apex bodies and regional associations to organize the seminars. As a result, 77 Design Awareness Seminars were organized across the country in the duration of four months – December 2010 to March 2011, thereby completing 100 seminars by March 2011.  Very soon it was decided in the Project Implementation Committee, PIC meeting to approve only those requests for seminars, having commitment to organize Design Awareness Programme, the second component of scheme.
This unique and ambitious scheme has the arduous task to create awareness about the importance and benefits of design among the MSME units as well as also provide handholding support to try and employ the benefits of design (through the support of design projects) for their industries. Towards meeting its first objective the seminars have certainly created that much needed spark and provided new perspective to the participating MSME members to look at their products and offerings from users’ perspectives. Design as is normally understood as a costly affair and is limited to cosmetic change of the products, the presentations have helped change these perceptions, to that of design as a creative problem solving process to improve their products and processes at every stage of their business. The scheme and thus the seminar have helped take design and the designers to the doorsteps of these needy MSME units. While at this stage though many of the MSME units, as they may be engaged in manufacturing of components as per their client specifications and thus may be occupied majorly with their day to day issues and businesses, these MSMEs will have to move up the value chain from their present position as OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturing units to that of ODM – Original Design Manufacturing units, in the very near future. The exposure to design through these seminars, at this stage will certainly go a long way for the beneficiary members of the MSME units as well as the Indian economy as a whole.  
There are however few limitations of these short duration seminars. The presentations by the designers and the opportunity thus created do not always lead to discussions.  Most participants and the MSME unit owners do not like to open up to discuss their individual products and problems in this larger group, and in front of others who may be manufacturing same products or components and thus will be his/her competitors. Other than the unit owner/s, other member/s from the units participating in the seminar would normally not be in any position to discuss and/ or take any decision. Participants find it difficult to relate the presentation, case-study and/or discussion if it is not from the same domain/ sector. As speaker, sometimes the designer may not be able to connect to the context and the audience thereby creating a communication gap. Inaugural session and felicitation gets extended thereby reducing the time for expert design presentations and discussions. Based on these continuous experiences and learning, the members of the implementing team have been constantly refining their inputs, seminar formats, its guideline etc.
As an implementing agency, the team is now geared up and is well equipped to take the next challenge to convert these MSME unit members’ first level of interaction with designers at the seminars, into their further involvement and interactions through their participation in Design Awareness programmes and Design Projects so as to improve their products and processes to meet the market expectations and achieve global standards and thereby benefit the results of design for their own products and businesses.