One of the challenges for any design educator is to inspire students by showing them exemplars of great design. It is a common practice in design classrooms that students are presented with designs created by some legendary designer. However, as the notion of creativity changes in the 21st century, there is a need to present case studies of designs that are an outcome of collaboration between multiple stakeholders rather than work of a single ‘gifted’ designer. In this context I would like to draw your attention to a product called Carvaan launched by a smartphone app developing company, SaReGaMa.
At the outset, Carvaan is the least interesting exemplar of design from an academician’s point of view. One reason could be that there is no star designer or artist name attached to it; even worse, it is produced by a profit making enterprise. What benefit can a student of design gain from the story of Carvaan? The simple answer to this question is that they will learn about the nuts and bolts of the design thinking process without making the connect explicit.
Carvaan is an outcome of a truly multidisciplinary design activity. One can instantly counter this claim by saying that all commercial business ventures are multidisciplinary in nature. However, what is different about Carvaan is that this multidisciplinary ‘design’ activity has design thinking at its core. In a business activity the purpose is to find customers for a product, but in design thinking, the purpose is to create a product for a customer, and there is a universe of difference in this small rearrangement of words.
The activity of finding customers for a product begins with a product, but the activity of building products for a customer begins with a story. Vikram Mehra, the MD of Saregama, recalls that when he joined the organisation, his teams’ focus was “how to sell the Saregama (app) song collection to a younger audience.” All their consumer research and marketing activities were focused on selling their existing song library. Hence they did a lot of consumer research with younger audiences to find out their preferences. During this process Vikram recalls the story of one particular interview with a lady in Kanpur that made him shift his focus altogether. This is what he recalls:
“A lady in Kanpur, who for some reason decided to call me “beta” said that the days of ‘Vividh Bharati’ used to be great. We didn’t know which song would be next but it kept playing on. Things are very complicated now.” She was right, of course. Cassettes and CDs are obsolete these days, and the older crowd still avoids complicated apps fearing a press of a button will unleash something they don’t understand and can’t control.” Bhatt, S. ( 2017)
From that moment on, Vikram rejected the idea of chasing the youth (which consisted of 80% of market) to sell his song list. He knew in his heart that he had to make something for this older lady and those like her with similar thoughts, feelings and nostalgia. Later consumer research revealed that there was a larger market in the older category than was originally envisaged, but he made the commitment without a profit motive, which went on to capture the hearts of a large non-youth audience with nostalgia for the days of radio; and become very profitable indeed.
Every design decision on this product indicates its target audience, from the shape and color to the typography, the interface and the song data.
We cannot say that Saregama is an example of great product design. It is an experiential product that combines the multiple disciplines of humanities, product design, visual communication and interaction design. Some people even say that it is like a time machine. However, contrary to popular belief it required minimum marketing expenditure. The whole product sold itself through word of mouth publicity. Vikram explains that instead of making the product first and then making it right, they focused on making it right from the very beginning by defining who they wanted to make it for very clearly.
Design educators do need to use such case studies as examples of success stories that originated from listening and empathy, and which have touched several consumers’ lives so distinctively.
Bhatt, S. ( 2017) , Carvaan: A product NOT targeted at Gen Y or Gen Z. ETBrandEquity.
https://brandequity.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/marketing/carvaan-a-product-not-targeted-at-gen-y-or-gen-z/60927206. Retrieved October 04, 2017, 06:00 IST.