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Ag Voice|Design :The earlier the better says Ritesh Rathi Designaren

To say that design plays an integral part of the development of a business is not only clichéd, but also redundant, much like thinking out of a box or location, location, location. Design has entered the Indian entrepreneurs vocabulary along with pre-existing terms such as ROI and USP. What is an interesting observation of current trends though is how early design starts to play a role in the development of a business and how good design is starting to matter. Even the role of designers has evolved from being mere aestheticians who made things look pretty and colourful, to designers contributing in creating an experience that would help entrepreneurs differentiate themselves from their competitors. It would be difficult to imagine a company such as housing.com entering a market of real estate websites where companies like magicbricks.com and 99acres.com had a clear early mover advantage, without creating a design driven experience that was more memorable. Housing.com almost forced the other two companies to revisit their sites and compete not only in terms of their pricing or the number of listings they have, but also what a user of their site feels while using the site.

Design’s role has been steadily growing into brand management, product and business development and doesn’t lie only in the earlier fortes of web, print and product design. The inclusion of designers being part of founding members of successful tech platforms such as YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, and even Android, prior to them becoming part of large companies, has further established the importance of design being an early stage initiative.
At my design agency, Designaren, we have seen a boom in the app and web portal space in recent months. Many first time entrepreneurs we work with are starting their new careers on these mediums and many come from backgrounds unrelated to tech or design. LocalOwls, a recently launched web portal for finding hyper-local services was started out by two women from the banking industry. Without much experience in what it takes to build a successful portal, they were convinced that an investment in design could be the big differentiator between them and their competitors. We were involved in the development of their project from an early stage. Like them, Designaren has had the opportunity to work with several startups who have come to us with no more then the ideas in their head and a piece of paper highlighting those ideas.

For Gautam Shewakramani, the founder and CEO of AudioCompass, an app that offers personalized audio tours, “design was and continues to be extremely important” to their success. Being first movers in the space of audio guides, Gautam says “…design was more than just how our product looks and feels. Being a new product that aims to change the way travelers interact with their destinations during travel, we didn't have design standards on which to fall back: our product sets the standard.” AudioCompass started with a mindset of investing early in good design and Gautam believes that “design should be one of the first critical features when going from idea to product development.” Gautam, much like many other tech entrepreneurs do attribute part of their success to being a design sensitive company. Audiocompass and Designaren have shared their success together. Gautam was one of our first clients, and even after over 5 years, we are still engaged with his company.

The role of design is not only limited to the web space, but brick and mortar stores like the three successful brands of Neighbourhood Hospitality that run the Woodside Inn and Pantry restaurants, have since their inception used design to create the experiences for their restaurants. The experience could be summarized as the ambience, the memory that was created; the intangible that cannot be quantified.  For Pankil Shah, one of their principals, since their first “hospitality product, design was always a part of the ideation process”. They came to realize that being design centric allowed them to carry their mantra to varied locations and they feel proud of using design early to “distinguish [themselves] from other brands with similar offerings” as only now do they “see design becoming a part of mainstream thought processes.”

Design doesn’t take place in a vacuum and relies on the expertise of like-minded computer programmers, construction companies, advertisers and marketers.  It is heartening to see even tech-oriented companies such as Canvass also persuading their clients to think of design as a powerful tool to build their company. For Rahul Lakhani, who runs Canvass “successful products are almost always a combination of solid design and great backend technology.” He believes that the designers role is paramount to a products success, especially as the designer has the ability to realize what a user wants by stepping into their shoes.
Finding good design and designers has also never been easier. Design is a global trend and like many modern services doesn’t rely on time zones and meetings at physical locations. At Designaren, besides working with companies from around India, we have worked with clients in the UK, US, Israel and Singapore and on the flip side, I have been told of successful stories of Indian entrepreneurs working with designers from Serbia and Spain as well. It seems almost redundant then to state this, but good design needs to be invested into early and as an entrepreneur you don’t have a choice in the matter, as most of your competitors are probably already doing this as you read this.

Note:- The views expressed are of the writer Adgully has no views on the above subject.

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